PCAL management, employees lock horns over recruitment

The employees of Penden Cement Authority Limited (PCAL) are disgruntled with the employment scheme the management has put in place for the company’s workers.

Around 130 employees, including 64 Indians employed on a muster roll, say they need to be employed on a permanent basis as they have served the company for more than 10 years.

These employees, who are employed onand as National Work Force (NWF), receive daily wage without any other benefits like Provident Fund and leave encashment. Also, they don’t receive wages during weekend and public holidays.

Talking to Business Bhutan, an employee on the condition of anonymity said he has worked for more than 10 years and is still waiting for regularization. They are paid Nu 215 a day, which he said is insufficient to feed the family despite having to work eight hours a day.

“Sometimes we have to work longer than that. But regular employees won’t work and we have to work,” he said.

And while Daily Work Force, Daily National Workers, and Face Workers are now employed under the Elementary Service Personnel (ESP), around 10 employees working as In-plant Trainee (IPT) are also still waiting for regularization. They receive a pay scale equivalent to Grade 18 in civil service presently.

“It’s like playing a child’s game,” another employee said.

Meanwhile, most of the NWF employees are employed for works such as plumbing, painting, carpentry and masonry. They say that their works are more than the wage and that they are not recruited even if there are vacancies for permanent employees in those fields.

“These employees are willing to compete with others to get employed permanently in those vacant seats through open selection process. We will be satisfied even if we are rejected,” another employee said.

According to the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan, 2007, an employee should be regularized after 180 days of his or her recruitment in the company.

But these employees claim that their contract agreements are renewed after every three months.

Further, Chapter Five, Section 73 of the Act 2007 under Probation states that an employer shall not require an employee to repeat a probationary period in relation to the same work or materially similar work.

“We are compelled to sign and we are left with no other options,” the employees echoed.

The employees, meanwhile, recently appealed to the management requesting for regularization, but to no avail.

However, PCAL’s management says that the labour rule has come up much later than that of the company’s establishment and that the management’s effort to change the company’s rule overnight will result in suffering of either of two parties.

“We are trying to balance the situation,” said PCAL’s Managing Director Kaylzang Tshering.

“The management has recently carried out Organizational Development (OD) exercise three weeks ago to determine the required key positions to move forward. If the OD determines the requirement of the workers, the management will recruit them permanently through open selection processes. They could fill up those positions but needs to be selected,” he said.

He added that with their experience, these workers are crying for automatic regularization which is impossible for the management. “The earlier system of employing laborers as NWF and recruiting permanently is impossible. The positions available must be open to everyone where many new qualified candidates are available in the job market today.”

The management say if laid off based on the requirement, these employees employed on muster roll will not be entitled to any benefit. But for the regular employees, the company will find alternative measures to recruit them, says the management.

The company has around six categories of workers categorized during its establishment and is having difficult to recruit them permanently.

“They can’t look at the new rules and want direct recruitment. We are waiting for OD’s result and theyhave the opportunity to compete for regularization after open competition,” the Managing Director said.

The management agrees about the experience claimed by these workers, which is equivalent to trained personnel or graduates. However, without accredited certificates, the management says they cannot absorb them directly.

An official from the Labor ministry’s Regional Office said the department is looking into the matter.

He added that officials from the ministry have visited the company this week to work on the matter and sort it out.

Krishna Ghalley from Gomtu