New Delhi-based businessman Ravi Kant Jaipuria's drinks venture in Nepal has run into labour trouble with angry workers padlocking its office here.
The RKJ Group, which has interests in real estate (residential), retailing, hospitality (a stake in Lemon Tree Hotels) and education (franchisee of
Modern Montessori Group), also has stakes in Varun Beverages, the sole bottler for Pepsi in India and Nepal and manufacturer of beer.
Although Maoist guerrillas have made their peace with the government, giving a respite to businessmen who had been bearing the brunt of bomb blasts, extortion and shutdowns, Varun Beverages has come under attack from the labour union affiliated to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, the second largest party in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's coalition government.
The communist union, in a bid to nip the growing popularity of the Maoists, is asking Varun Beverages to give permanent employment to seasonal workers who have been employed for over 240 days, with sick leave and other facilities.
On Friday evening, about 100 workers surrounded MNC's premises, padlocking the gate with over 150 employees inside, including director S.V. Singh.
The protest was reportedly triggered by the company's directive to the temporary employees to go on "unpaid leave" during off-season.
Ramesh Sethai, a member of the leftist trade union, told the media that the stir would continue till the company met its demands.
Saturday being the official weekend in Nepal, no comments were available from Varun Beverages.
Several leading Indian ventures in Nepal have been facing demands by unions to give permanent employment to seasonal workers. Owners say they can't do that due to mounting losses faced during the decade-old insurgency.
Earlier this year, tea garden workers in eastern Nepal struck work for nearly a month, pressing for higher wages. Although the strike inflicted heavy losses, the workers could not get their demands fulfilled.
One of Nepal's best-known five-star hotels, the Yak and Yeti, owned by the Sarafs of India, reopened recently after more than a month's closure arising due to labour problems.