On 28 June, more than 500 workers at the Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara, Nepal, concluded a successful 28-day strike to improve conditions and pay at the hospital. The workers have already won many of their demands around paid leave. Negotiations over a pay rise are ongoing, but the union is hopeful for a positive outcome.
The hospital workers began forming a union with UNI affiliate UNIPHIN roughly one-and-a-half years ago, and they formally submitted a Demand for Recognition with the country’s labour office in April 2022.
Despite meeting the legal requirements for registration process, the hospital refused to recognize the union and listen to their calls for maternity leave, funeral leave, a pay rise, paid leave and for temporary workers to be made permanent staff.
To move the hospital management to begin negotiations, the workers took action. On 1 June 2022, they began a strike that included peaceful sit-ins in front of the hospital for 5 hours a day and closing the outpatient department.
Nabaraj Bhandari, President of the UNIPHIN branch at the hospital says, “‘Until when we will keep quiet?’ and ‘Until when we will have to struggle?’ These questions to all my fellow workers motivated them. And we united together both to fight for our rights and to be stronger by forming a union.
“In the previous year, we had faced police intervention and management suppression when we demanded for our concerns to be addressed. If the agreement does not come into implementations, we will resume our protest and union action, accordingly.”
In the wake of the strike, the union has returned to the negotiating table. So far, workers’ demands for paid leave, maternity leave and permanent jobs for many temporary workers have been accepted by management. Negotiations on pay and implementation upon the agreed benefits continue, but the union is hopeful a breakthrough will occur soon.
“We are always constructive and believe in dialogue. We are never violent, so we believe in union recognition and peaceful negotiation in all the issues,” says Prithivi Thapaliya, National President of UNIPHIN.
For the past six years, UNI Global Union has supported private hospital organizing in Nepal, helping thousands of workers win collective bargaining protections. UNI backed the workers’ efforts at various other hospitals which are under the umbrella of UNIPHIN too.
“Care workers in Nepal are showing that collective action can transform the sector. What started as a few care workers in the country has blossomed into a movement that is raising standards nationwide—and inspiring workers across the region,” said Rajendra Acharya, Regional Secretary of UNI Asia & Pacific. “The win at Manipal Teaching Hospital shows that union power is growing in care, and UNI will continue to support these workers—and care workers throughout the country—as they fight for the wages and dignity they deserve.”
India’s Manipal Education and Medical Group established the Manipal Medical College and Hospital in Pokhara three decades ago. It has since been bought by Batas Organization and Autoways Group, both Nepali organizations. During the transfer in ownership, workers faced uncertainty over their conditions, but when the new management assured the union and signed an agreement with workers, the union protest was lifted from the hospital.
UNI Asia & Pacific