KATHMANDU, Sept 6: Chairperson of the State Affairs Committee (SAC) of parliament, Mina Pandey proposed holding the committee meeting at 8 am on Thursday but she was forced to reschedule the meeting for 11 am after the staffers at parliament refused to reach office before 10 am.
The committee is scheduled to hold deliberations on the Bill on Personal Privacy, which has received criticism from various quarters. But the committee has been asked to finalize the bill in a week due to the constitutional deadline for enacting the fundamental rights related laws. “After the staffers refused to come to office before 10 in the morning, I postponed the meeting from 8 am to 11 am. But I was unaware about their protest,” Pandey told Republica.
Like the SAC, all parliamentary committees have been failing to convene their meetings in before 10 in the morning as the staffers at the secretariat are not willing work outside the 10 to 5 office hours, citing the slashing of their their allowances. Demanding continuity of 80 percent allowances and snack expenses, the staffers at the federal parliament secretariat have been refusing to work prior to 10 and after 5 pm.
As a result, parliamentary committees have been getting less than two hours a day for their meetings amid business pressure and inching closer deadline for fundamental rights related bills. Most of the parliamentary committee starts at 11 am in the morning and concludes after 12:30 to attend the full house meeting at 1 pm.
“We cannot force the employees to work in odd hours. But the issue is affecting the lawmaking process in crucial juncture. Parliament secretariat and government should settle this issue soon,” said Ram Narayan Bidari Chairman of Delegated Management Committee of the upper house.
Staff at the parliament secretariat received allowances equal to 80 percent of their salary, in addition to their regular salary and snacks allowance for 10 years after 2008. But the government decided to slash the allowances at all government office in the fiscal budget effective from mid-July.
But the employees union at the office has been piling pressure on the Parliament Secretariat Management Committee, speaker, deputy speaker and other senior officials for 80 percent allowances. “If we have to work extra time than the office hours, we must get allowances for that. The government should review its decision keeping in view the working hours of parliament,” said chairman of the employees union at parliament secretariat, Surendra Mahat.
The parliament secretariat is also positive about arranging extra pay for the staffers considering their work in odd hours. “We have requested the Finance Ministry for reviewing the decision as staffers at the parliament secretariat should work during morning and late evening. But the ministry is yet to decide it,” said Bharat Gautam, secretary at the parliament secretariat.
Parliament had reduced snacks expenses to Rs 250 a day from Rs 600 a day in January after the Office of the Auditor General exposed Rs 11.2 million unsettled expenses for lunch and snacks at the parliament and Finance Ministry's direction to stop dual facilities of 80 percent allowances and food expenses. The Finance Ministry has to allocate Rs 7 million a month for the 80 percent allowances which adds minimum 19 thousand to maximum 43 thousand in salary of different parliament staffers.
Around 300 employees work at the parliament services, a special government service, including over 220 permanent and some on contract. Earlier, the government was forced to allocate extra allowances for staffers at the parliament building New Baneshwor following their protest and accusation of discrimination. Staffers at the parliament building are employees of Ministry of Urban Development as the building owns the same ministry.