Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu ­- People employed as National Workforce (NWF) workers, commonly referred to as PWD workers, are calling upon the government to raise the national daily minimum wage. 

As inflation continues to surge and civil servants receive salary increases, PWD workers are awaiting the government to fulfil its commitment to revise the minimum wage, feeling that they are the most overlooked segment when it comes to policy attention.

Workers stationed along the highways of Sarpang have repeatedly raised their concerns with relevant authorities, yet it appears that assistance remains uncertain, at least for now. 

Many are considering leaving their jobs if there is no wage rate revision.

Passang Dema expressed optimism, citing the remaining months of the government’s tenure, stating, “We remain hopeful that our wage rate will be revised soon. Everything is becoming more expensive, but our wages remain stagnant.”

She said, “We would greatly appreciate if the government could increase the wage rate. This would significantly improve the lives of minimum wage earners and enhance their living standards.”

Currently earning a daily wage of Nu 215, translating to a monthly salary of Nu 6,450, Padam Maya Rai stressed the difficulty of supporting their families. “A wage increase would unquestionably make a substantial difference in our lives.”

According to PWD workers, they have been assigned to cover additional kilometres of road instead of receiving a salary increase. Previously, each worker was responsible for only 1.5 kilometres, but now a group of seven workers must cover 15 kilometres of the road.

While some are provided with safety gear like boots, helmets, and sickles, not everyone receives these items. The workers claim to be using their own tools, with some even bringing their own grass-cutting machines to the job.

For instance, two female PWD workers along the Sershong-Tareythang highway bring their own grass-cutting machines, while the other five members of the group share the fuel costs, which they deduct from their salaries.

Workers are required to be at the worksite from 8am to 5pm, regardless of weather conditions or roadblocks caused by landslides. Since most of these workers are women, they often have to wake up as early as 3am to prepare for work. 

“I have to prepare packed lunches for my children and myself, milk the cow, and do household chores,” said Changma Choden.

She said that they rely on private vehicles for transportation, as the government does not provide any. “When we can’t catch a ride, we have to spend Nu 100 on bus fare for a round trip, leaving us with only Nu 150 for the day.”

“If we want to engage in our farming work, we have to take a leave. Sometimes, if we can’t attend gewog meetings or contribute labour, we are fined Nu 300, which is more than our daily earnings of Nu 215,” another PWD worker said.

The government had promised to increase the daily minimum wage from Nu 215 to Nu 450, along with introducing provident funds for the national workforce. However, a final decision on this matter is pending.

Industry Minister Karma Dorji said that the revision of the national minimum wage would coincide with the pay increase for state-owned enterprises (SOE), adding that the ministry has submitted the proposal to the finance ministry. 

“Depending on the budget balance after the civil servant pay hike, it will be finalized soon,” Lyonpo said.