Comrade Biswa Nath Pyakurel, President of the Confederation of Nepalese Professionals (CONEP) gave the following interview to the WFTU Press room.
WFTU Press Room: Tell us a little bit about the history of CONEP.
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: CONEP is the national federation of 24 national trade unions, particularly class-oriented trade unions working in the public sector all over the country. It is one of the biggest, strongest, class-based organizations in the country. It was founded 70 years ago. CONEP is clear in its ideology and vision. Prosperous life, social equity and socialism are the main principles of CONEP. Thus, we have been a member of WFTU since 2008.
WFTU Press Room: What are the objectives of CONEP for the trade union movement in Nepal?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: CONEP is working specially for the public sector class-oriented workers and unionists. It works for the betterment of the workers lives, better salary, social security, human rights, and justice. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in the context of the Nepalese politics for peace and prosperity. Since its foundation it has been fighting for trade union rights, as well as political rights in the vision making sector also. It works for unitying the workers all over the country to be under one umbrella and to move forward neck to neck with CONEP in class-based organizations. All these principles are expressed in our constitutions.
WFTU Press Room: You have long experience in the trade union movement of Nepal. How difficult was the struggle against the monarchy?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: I have been participating in the trade union movement since 1990. I used to be the President of one the bigger class-based organizations, NEGEO, the organization of the civil servants. I have been holding different responsibilities within the organizations. Thoughout this period the struggle was very difficult. There was no democracy.
At those times, the teachers, paramedical workers, nurses, overseers, college teachers were better organized. They could organize industrial action but there was no coordination amongst them. There was no collective bargaining. The struggle was scattered to individual organizations.
The organizations and the unions were working underground or semi-underground. It was when the multiparty system was restored in 2006, that the trade union organizations expanded throughout the country.
WFTU Press Room: What is the role played by the International Institutes in Nepal?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: It is unfortunate that many international agencies and NGO’s are playing a very bad role to destroy the real class-oriented movement in Nepal. There are the World Bank, the European Union and Institutes such as the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) and organizations such as the Education International, the DLF (Danish Union of Teachers) of Denmark and others, that are active in Nepal.
Capitalism is playing its role under ITUC. We strongly believe that ITUC does not represent the working class.
WFTU Press Room: What is the role of those trade unions such as the one of the Danish Union of Teachers in Nepal?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: The DLF is funding the umbrella organization of the teachers unions in Nepal which is called Teachers Union of Nepal in certain projects for publications, organizing seminars, taking people to Denmark and other places abroad etc.
Also, the UEN (Union of Education) of Norway has provided funding for the building of offices of the NNTA (Nepal National Teachers Association). Also the Association of Nurses of Norway provided assistance for the Nurses Association of Nepal to build their building. Same for the Nepali Lawyers, the relevant union from Norway, provided support for the logistics.
They are “teaching” nothing that has to do with strike or class-oriented movement. They are doing capacity building as they have lots of money that they want to use to subside, to divert the nation to another way, a way other than struggle. They believe in social dialogue. They believe in seminars and meetings and workshops. Not struggle.
WFTU Press Room: What is CONEP calling the Nepali workers to fight for?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: We need peace and a constitution, a trade-union friendly constitution of the new Nepal. We fight for job security, social security, increase of salaries, increase of facilities, job guaranty, permanency, stopping privatization in health, social security, drinking water, education, we fight to build a movement against the price hike, against corruption.
WFTU Press Room: What does CONEP believe about the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU)?
Biswa Nath Pyakurel: While capitalism is attacking from every nook and corner, WFTU is certainly leading the class-oriented organizations, the workers of the world.
WFTU should play a vital role for providing trade union education, should play an offensive role in International Agencies, such as the ILO.
WFTU should be more active, more resourceful, and more dynamic, should take special care to the movements in Nepal and build up pressure to the Nepalese government.