Penden Cement Authority Limited (PCAL) will be liable to pay a fine for failing to regularise its 130 national workforce (NWF) employees, say labour officials.

Section 41 of the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, states, “A person who contravenes section 40 shall be liable to pay a fine at the rate of the Daily Minimum National Wage Rate (DMNWR) to a maximum of 360 days.”

The DMNWR today is Nu 125.

In February this year, some PCAL employees lodged a complaint to the labour regional office in Phuentsholing stating that they were not regularised despite working for more than 10 to 15 years.

They complained that although the Labour Act was enacted in 2007, PCAL has not complied with the Act for 10 years.

Labour director Sonam Wangdi said it is the fault of the PCAL management. “They didn’t look at it properly.”

He, however, explained that the matter would have remained unresolved because labour officials and PCAL management kept changing.

“There was no continuation,” he said, adding labour officials go on transfer, leaving some works unfinished. “I was here for two years and I came to know only recently.”

Sonam Wangdi said it could be the same on PCAL’s side. “Their management keeps changing.”

He explained that the previous management would not have briefed the new ones properly.

On penalising PCAL, labour director said that it would depend on the severity of the issue.

“It could be for 100 days or 200 days,” he said.

PCAL currently pays a daily wage of Nu 215 for its NWFs. They don’t get paid leave and are not paid for Sundays and public holidays.

With regards to the contract of employment, Section 52 of the labour Act, states, “If an employer assigns the same or similar work for the same wages to an employee employed for one year or more, the employee shall be deemed to have been employed under a contract of employment as set out in chapter V.”

Section 72 states, “A contract of employment of one year or more may contain a period of probation of a maximum of 180 days within which period either party may terminate the contract by giving the other party notice of 7 days.”

An employer shall not require an employee to repeat a probationary period in relation to the same work or materially similar work, section 73 of the Act, states.

An employer who contravenes these sections shall be guilty of an offence, which shall be a petty misdemeanour, the Act states. However, the Act does not have any specific provisions for non-regularisation of employees.

Meanwhile, a PCAL official said that there has been no intimation about the penalty from the labour office. He did not comment further.

PCAL has currently outsourced an organisational development (OD) exercise. The findings would decide the requirement for workers. NWFs would have to sit for an open competition if the OD exercise suggests the need of workforce. The OD would be completed in May, PCAL officials said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing