Parliament staff begin protesting as the budget debate continues

The employees of the Secretariat of the Federal Parliament have warned that they will not work outside office hours from Wednesday and are demanding compensation for overtime and odd hours.

Their warning comes as the government plans to approve the national budget on Thursday. Staff at Parliament’s secretariat claim that they are regularly required to work before and after office hours without receiving a cent above their normal salary.

“It has been three years since the government stopped paying the allowance,” Govind Belbase, president of the Federal Parliament Secretariat employees’ union, told the Post. “We had to resort to protest because no money has been allocated in the budget for the coming financial year either.”

The national budget was submitted to Parliament on May 28 and ministerial discussions are currently underway. The budget for the 2024-2025 financial year will be approved on Thursday.

Belbase said that Chamber meetings, which usually start at 11 a.m., regularly last beyond 5 p.m. Staff should arrive at least one hour before the meeting for preparations and stay an additional hour after the meeting.

House committee meetings are held around 8 a.m., prior to Parliament meetings. “It is common for us to work 10 to 12 hours a day without any compensation,” Belbase said. He said it was an injustice to them and contrary to the 1930 ILO Convention, to which Nepal is a party.

Article 3 of the Convention provides: “The hours of work of persons to whom this Convention applies shall not exceed forty-eight hours per week and eight hours per day, unless otherwise provided hereinafter.”

The allowance for government employees was withdrawn following the Covid-19 pandemic. The government resumed allowances at some government agencies, including the Election Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, but not at parliament, Belbase said.

“If there is no guarantee of additional compensation, we will not work outside office hours,” he said. It is not possible to handle parliamentary committee meetings and parliamentary work within office hours.

The united staff worked on a symbolic protest on Friday wearing black armbands. They announced their plan to stage an hour-long sit-in in front of the office of the Secretary General of the Federal Parliament from Sunday. If their demands are not met, they will not work before and after office hours, the union leader said.

Even before the budget was tabled, Speaker Devraj Ghimire had requested Barsha Man Pun, the Finance Minister, to increase Parliament’s budget and resume additional work allowances. However, the money has not been allocated in the new budget.