KATHMANDU, Aug 21: Officials of Devyani International Nepal -- local franchisee of KFC, Pizza Hut and Cream Bell - boycotted a meeting that the Labor Office called on Tuesday to mediate talks for settling differences between its management and workers.
This has deepened uncertainty over resumption of operations of the global fast food chains that have remained shut since last Tuesday. The Labor Office had called the two sides for talks on Friday as well but postponed it for Tuesday after Devyani International Nepal ignored the call.
“We reached the labor office well on time (11 am) and waited till 2 pm. But the management representatives did not turn up and we had to return just like that,” Nawaraj Bhatta, president of ad-hoc committee of All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union-Revolutionary (ANHRWU-R) being formed at the company.
Some 66 workers of KFC, Pizza Hut and Cream Bell that have put signature for the trade union blamed the management of playing unfairly over their attempt to register a trade union, which goes with the law of land.
However, Republica could not independently confirm the stance of the management as its managers had their mobile phones switched off and senior officials refused to talk.
“We will now fix the date only after management agrees to come for the talks,” said Nima Sherpa, official at the Labor Office.
The differences between the workers and management of Devyani International Nepal had surfaced after the workers formally lodged application at the Labor Office for the registration of a trade union on August 13.
However, the management unilaterally announced closure of KFC, Pizza Hut and Cream Bell outlets, accusing the workers of manhandling senior managers.
“Senior managers of the company too have been receiving calls threatening their lives. These unlawful activities have not allowed the company to operate peacefully,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.
As the company also warned that it could permanently close the outlets, the private sector bodies like Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) have been trying to pacify the situation by bringing the workers and management for talks. But their efforts have failed so far.
“We are trying our best to bring the situation to normalcy and prevent any mishap. Hopefully, the management will respond,” said Pashupati Murarka, vice-president of FNCCI, who is taking initiative for the talks.
As for the absence of management officials on Tuesday´s talks is concerned, he stated that the management may not have come for talks as they are not assured of security. “Forming a union is not a big deal, but manhandling of senior staff by workers is a serious issue,” said Murarka.
However, Bhatta claimed that the ANHRWU-R members had never manhandled the senior managers. “In fact, we were so unaware about the scuffle that the management is referring to that we had reached our respective workplaces on Tuesday morning to resume normal works. The shutdown notice pasted by the management shocked us,” he stated.
Meanwhile, All Nepal Revolutionary Federation of Trade Union (ANRFTU) affiliated to CPN-Maoist too has added its weight in favor of the ANHRWU-R. Organizing a press meet on Tuesday, ANRFTU even claimed that the blame of attack against managerial staff was the management´s conspiracy to abort the attempt to form a union.
“The management shut down the company because they are against registration of trade union,” said Ramdip Acharya, coordinator of ANRFTU. “We flay its move because right to form union is the fundamental rights of the workers,” he stated.
Workers at the Pizza Hut, KFC and Cream Bell outlets at Durbar Marg, and KFC and Pizza Hut Delivery (PHD) at Blue Bird Mall, Tripureshwar, meanwhile, expressed hope the present deadlock will end soon.
“We hope such a big foreign investor will not leave us in lurch just because some of the miscreants created nuisance,” said a KFC worker.