Jul 31, 2023

Nepal is highly vulnerable to climate change impact. Climate change disasters like floods, landslides, droughts, and extreme temperatures are more frequent and severe in Nepal. Workers bear the brunt of the climate change. A large workforce is engaged in agriculture, which is highly dependent on climate conditions. Erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, or intense floods can lead to reduced crop yields, lower incomes, and food insecurity for farmers and agricultural labourers. Changing weather patterns also make it difficult for farmers to plan their planting and harvesting activities. Rising temperatures and extreme heatwaves have a direct effect on the health and safety of outdoor workers. Heat stress and heat-related illnesses particularly impact on those working in construction, agriculture, and outdoor workers. Almost 62.2% of workers in Nepal work in the informal economy. Most of them are underpaid and excluded from social protection despite labour and social security reforms. There is also a growing trend of international migration. According to the Department of Foreign Employment, around 3,000 young people leave Nepal for overseas work every day.

How trades unions are responding to the climate crisis

Trade unionists meeting with the Ministry of Labour.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA in partnership with the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland supports the Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre (JTUCC) of Nepal to strengthen the capacity of trade unions in Nepal to engage with climate mitigation and adaptation programs across key sectors. The goal of this 4-year partnership is to respond to the climate crisis through the following strategies:

– Developing evidence to build the capacity of the Nepali trade union movement to engage with climate change as a workers’ issue

– Holding employers in Nepal accountable to ensure workers are included in discussions on climate change impacts

– Strategically engaging governments and other parties to ensure Nepali workers’ interests are included in climate policy and programs at all levels.

This 4-year partnership began in April 2022. Despite major political events like national elections in May and November last year, JTUCC managed to organize four workshops to discuss and plan climate strategies for engaging with the government and employers. Following the workshops, JTUCC organized two consultation meetings with relevant government officials, where 65 participants took part. The outcome of the meetings was that the Nepal government agreed to engage with JTUCC on climate change discussions. JTUCC is also targeting to engage with younger union activists. They organised a three-day seminar working with younger climate activists, with 33 participants, including 12 women.

JTUCC will continue its action on educating, mobilising, and advocating for the working-class role and place in national planning while supporting JTUCC members to organise workers and build trade union strength on the issue of the climate crisis.

About the Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre

The Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre (JTUCC) in Nepal is a unique structure where 10 national trade union centres with diverse political ideologies have agreed to work on common working-class issues with the principle of ‘unity in diversity’. Nepali trade unions recognise that diversity is a strength. Since its establishment in 2007, they managed to win a minimum wage review every two years, reform on social security act, representation in the tripartite body and the establishment of a social security board. They say on their website: “Our formula of unity is to form united opinion regarding issues of labour movement and take this common stand vis-à-vis our counter parts with opposite interest, and to think and carry creative campaigns independently on issues of disagreement without hampering the unity of the centre”. www.jtucc.org.np

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