Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Private firms availing services of the Workforce Management Centre (WMC) at Amochhu are unhappy about the services.

Starting September 23, all foreign workers, including day workers, have been taken to the centre on arrival in the country.

The centre has been set up by the labour department to provide end-to-end (one-stop) services to foreign workers. Services such as general health screening and drug testing, banking, sim cards, enrolment of biometrics, work permit and transportation to worksites from the centre without having to visit multiple agencies for work permit-related services will be done at the centre.

The centre also provides logistic facilities in case foreign workers are required to halt a night.

However, it has become an expensive affair riddled with other inconveniences, businessmen say.

A contractor, Ugyen said that he used to import a foreign worker by investing over Nu 2,800.

“Today, it shoots up to Nu 5,000 per foreign worker,” he said, the cost of importing foreign workers has escalated. “It was rather cheaper during the lockdown time.”

Apart from the medical bills, he said the Foreign Workers’ Recruitment Agencies (FWRA) are charging agent fees, taxi fare, food and lodging expenses. One foreign worker is being charged Nu 700 for food and lodge, he added.

The problem doesn’t end with employers bringing in foreign workers. FWRAs also have issues.

One FWRA proprietor in Phuentsholing said the idea of WMC came at a time when they were already asked by the labour office to shift to bigger and more spacious offices.

“Although the government’s vision to come up with a one-stop-shop at Amochhu is very good, there are so many problems associated with it,” he said.

The proprietor said the centre is located far and labour recruiters have to invest in transportation and food and lodge, which is an extra cost.

“The Internet connectivity is not good. And the power is erratic,” he said, adding that foreign workers had to wait for a long time. “It takes two to three days to clear a group of foreign workers.”

Labour officials in Phuentsholing said that WMC is a one-stop-shop where foreign workers and their recruiters need not have to move from the hospital for medical screening and immigration office.

“Previously they had to walk for screening at diagnostic centres and then walk to the hospital for a certificate and then walk to immigration to process a work permit. Now, they can just stay in one location and avail of the services,” a labour official said.

“Even if they can’t complete the work permit processing, they can halt for a night and room is being provided which charges only Nu 200 per night,” the official said.

Foreign workers also can cook for themselves or buy from the canteen.

The labour office in Phuentsholing also said that the internet problem has been solved as the centre is connected with fibre optics. However, they said power outages are still a problem.

The labour office maintained that if foreign workers were allowed in the immigration office in the town, the crowd would be difficult to handle.