Working Paper 145

Labour Unionism in a Post-Conflict Context: Maoists, unionists, and formerly bonded labourers in an urban municipality in the western Tarai

Michael Peter Hoffmann

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 145

The aim of this paper is to contribute to our understanding of how the Nepalese Maoist movement intersects with non-Maoist trade unions. I challenge dominant views of an enduring antagonism between the Nepalese Maoist movement and non-Maoist trade unions. Instead, I contend that for the urban municipality in the western Tarai the Maoist movement and non-Maoist labour unions co-reside within the boundaries of the town in a symbiotic relationship. I highlight how, while Maoists claim to represent labour in town, their actions focus largely on the protection of a specific segment of the town’s labour force. Maoists offer political patronage to formerly bonded labourers’ neighborhoods but neglect other labour issues. This political vacuum surrounding the representation of labour has instead been filled by two non-Maoist labour unions that emerged in the wake of the insurgency period. I document the development of these groups and look at the various forms of collective action they employ, which include strikes, the mediation of labour disputes, monthly union meetings, and the institutionalisation of collective bargaining procedures. I suggest that an important effect of the new trade unionism in town is the incorporation of formerly bonded labourers into the unions’ power structures.

Go to Editor View