Labour officials warn others to start the mandatory scheme

Benefit: The labour and human resources ministry has called on drayang owners to start provident fund (PF) schemes for their employees, as part of enforcement of the Labour Act 2007.

The ministry hosted a daylong meeting in Thimphu yesterday to brief drayang owners and employees on their rights and responsibilities as prescribed in the Act.

Some 150 drayang employees from Thimphu, about 90 percent of them women, attended the meeting. The drayangs today don’t have the PF scheme.

Labour officer Phuntsho Dendup said some of the employees didn’t want PF, as it had to be deducted from their salary. This was because they were not aware of the benefits of the scheme. Some feared that the deductions was for the employers.

Labour officials said the enforcement of PF scheme was not only for drayangs but also for other private firms. However, he said the media entities were not inspected so far on the assumption that they were more aware of the laws.

Labour officials said they would investigate private firms and organization upon a complaint from employees. “If there is a complaint, we will go and investigate,” said an official, adding that the complainant’s name and identity would not be revealed.

The employer would be given 30 days to start the scheme. Employers failing to do so will be penalised as per the labour law. Phuntsho Dendup said over the last five years, the compliance with labour laws has increased significantly.

Drayang owners have agreed to start the scheme, but some were confused how to deduct the monthly installment as they do not have a basic salary system.

Most employees are paid based on how much they collect from customers every night through a system called ‘pay per request’ where a customer pays certain amount to request the employee to dance or sing. The employer retains 50 percent of the total amount from each entertainer.

In absence of a fixed salary, labour officials said payment on maternity leave could be calculated based on the minimum daily wage, which is Nu 125. Employees said they earn an average of Nu 10,000 a month.

Owner of Lungta Gongphel Drayang, Tshering, said he paid his employees Nu 6,000 a month initially, but employers benefited more when he started the system where employees get to keep 50 percent of their collection.

However, labour officials cautioned that this system could deprive those who cannot get enough collection during the month but do equal works.

On PF, drayang owners said most of their employees worked for six months to two years and that it was not convenient to have a PF scheme. Some said they had started PF scheme, but discontinued on the request of the employees.

“They said their salary was too little to deduct PF from,” said another drayang owner. “But now since it is a legal obligation, we will start it again,” he said.

Director Jigme Thinley advised the employees and employers to sign a contract on appointment. He said such contracts would avoid problems between employers and employees.

MB Subba