KATHMANDU, Feb 17: As a part of reviving the Birgunj Sugar Factory, the government is preparing to settle outstanding dues of 193 workers who refused golden handshake offer made by the factory that shut its operations about a decade ago.
“The newly formed board of directors (BoD) of the factory has been holding discussions on ways to settle dues of those 193 staff members,” Joint Secretary Khum Raj Punjali, chief of Corporation Coordination Division under Ministry of Finance, said.
The government had formed a seven-member BoD at the factory in the first week of January, asking it to do necessary groundwork for bringing the state-owned factory back into operation.
“It is necessary to settle dues of 193 workers first,” Punjali told Republica on Sunday.
Punjali also said the workers are flexible this time and willing to let the government move ahead with its plan to hand over the factory to the private sector.
For that to happen, the BoD has to devise a plan to get rid of 193 workers and submit it to Ministry of Industry (MoI). "We will approve the plan once MoI forward it to us,” Punjali said, adding that the BoD at present is holding talks at different level to settle the issue."
The factory shut operations nine years ago after it started making losses due to problems like over-staffing and perennial shortage of raw materials. The government had decided to liquidate the factory nine years ago, but it had not materialized due to pressure from local political leaders.
MoI took the initiative to revive the factory after Public Enterprises (PE) Board gave it a go ahead to hand the factory over to the private sector so that no liability comes to the government.
PE Board, however, had suggested the government to manage the 193 workers first.
“The government must settle dues that it owes to 193 workers before handing the factory over to the private sector,” Bimal Wagle, chairman of the PE board said.
According to MoF, the factory had 1,053 persons in its payroll in 2002/03.
Earlier in 2009, the then finance minister Babu Ram Bhattarai, who is now the Prime Minister, declared that he wanted to see the factory in operation.