Despite working for more than 10 years, some employees of the Penden Cement Authority Limited (PCAL) in Phuentshopelri (Gomtu), Samtse, have not been regularized even as contract employees.

This status contradicts the Labour Act that mandates employees who have been working in the same work for same wages for a year or more to be deemed employed under contract.

For PCAL, the employees who work on muster roll are categorized as a national workforce (NWF) or daily rated casual workers.

There are more than 130 employees as NWF with PCAL today.

Requesting anonymity, an employee under NWF, said PCAL employed him 10 years ago. “Although the daily wage increased at the time of pay revision, I haven’t received any other increment,” he said. “I have not been regularised.”

NWFs are paid Nu 215 a day today. Prior to the last increase, an NWF was paid Nu 175. Before that, it was Nu 130.

The employee said he was paid Nu 100 when he first joined PCAL.

The employee said what he earns is enough to feed his family. “I cannot save anything for the future and have no benefits too.”

NWFs are also not paid for Sundays, leave, and government holidays.

According to sources, PCAL has managed to skip regularizing the NWF, as the company has a system of renewing and refreshing the contract of the muster roll employees every three months.

A source said the system is called “contract of employment for daily wage or casual workers.” “This particular contract refreshes the contract period of NWFs to new every three months.”

An employee under the NWF said he even tried to avoid the contract by not signing but failed.

“I have been working for 10 years now,” he said. “But this three-month employment contract makes us like we are new.”

He said all the major works that regular workers are required to do are given to the NWFs, while they were not regularised or given increment.

The NWF employees said PCAL provided them with staff quarters to live, which they claimed helped them to sustain.

PCAL’s managing director (MD) Kaylzang Tshering said whatever the management is doing is probably incorrect in the light of the existing rules and regulations that have changed.

“But to change overnight is going to be painful for either the management or the workers,” he said.

The MD said if the management went by the labour ministry’s requirement, then it would have to either regularise these employees or lay them off.

He said if PCAL is to implement the changes, one of the parties is going to suffer. “PCAL is trying to lessen that impending suffering.”

Kaylzang Tshering said PCAL staffs had their relatives enrolled into the casual labourers in the past. These people went and eventually became NWF. “It was a backdoor entry into the PCAL system.”

He explained that an organisational development (OD) exercise is being conducted for the past three weeks to determine what are the key positions required for PCAL. “If the OD determines that particular section in a plant requires 10 people and there are only five regular workers, recruitment opportunities would open and the NWFs can also participate.”

Kaylzang Tshering, however, said that is not going to happen automatically.

PCAL officials said vacancies would be advertised and the right people have to be selected from open competition.

The MD said the mine’s workers, however, would remain as casual workers and PCAL would not regularise them. “That is because the mines may have to close down as the number of reserves left is not much.”

Mines workers, who are the locals, according to PCAL officials, come when they are free and do not come when they have work.

PCAL also has other categories of workers such as the departmental NWF (DNWF), face worker NWF (FWNWF), in-plant trainee (IPT).

The management recently promoted the DNWF and FWNWF to elementary support personnel (ESP) level, while the IPT was pushed to general support personnel (GSP) level.

Labour ministry’s regional labour officials said they are working on it.

The labour director, Sonam Wangdi, said not regularizing employees and renewing contract every three months is illegal. “I have recently met with the PCAL MD and it appears they are conducting an OD exercise. PCAL asked for some time.”

Rajesh Rai  | Gomtu