UNI Global Union’s affiliate in Nepal, the Casino Workers’ Union (CWU), has increased its membership by more than 600 workers. Most recently they organized 325 workers at the Deltin Casino at Marriot Hotel in Kathmandu, as well as uniting workers of Happy Hour mini-casinos in Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj.

Last year Nepal’s casinos were granted permission to reopen after more than 18 months of shutting their doors due to COVID-19. The industry is said to employ around 12,000 to 15,000 people.

CWU fights for the rights and welfare of employees in the gaming industry, where workers are low paid and stigmatized, as Nepalese people themselves are not allowed to gamble. Affiliating to the union, casino workers get a platform for collective bargaining and negotiation with employers for better pay, improved working conditions and opportunities for professional growth in the sector.

Speaking on the win at the Deltin Casino, the President of the CWU Marriot hotel unit Mr. Dinesh Acharya said: “We were faced with many hurdles to organize workers at Deltin Casino but through hard work and a platform to improve salaries and end outsourcing, we were able to convince all the workers to join our union.”

CWU-Nepal President Khem Khadka added, “Employers and the state try to weaken the trade union movement. It has left us with two choices: either organize to be strong or get exploited; we always choose the first option because a strong voice brings dignity too.”

Casino workers in Nepal have faced severe challenges over the past decade, including a complete ban on all casinos in 2014, the country’s devasting earthquake in 2015 and then Covid-19, which shut down the industry. As a consequence, many casino workers lost their jobs and were compelled to change career or look for work in casinos outside Nepal.

CWU is an active member of UNI’s Nepalese Liaison Council and earlier this year some representatives took part in the workshop on “Effectively Organizing Workers in a Nepalese Context” organised by UNI Asia & Pacific. The knowledge and practical skills necessary to effectively lead campaigns were successfully applied when organizing new members.

UNI Asia & Pacific Regional Secretary, Rajendra Acharya, said:

“We wholeheartedly congratulate CWU on gaining hundreds of new members in the Nepalese gambling sector, in a tough environment. Their steadfast and successful organizing drive is paying off and this time it will be the casino workers that win as they benefit from a union.”

Gambling in Nepal is regulated under the Gambling Act of 1963. The law permits the operation of casinos only in designated five-star hotels. Mini-casinos casinos are gaming rooms operating out of four-star hotels, mostly outside of the capital areas. The government of Nepal controls and monitors these establishments to ensure fair play and responsible gambling practices.