Foreign workers replace Bhutanese at Gelephu orange depot

Foreign workers are now seen replacing Bhutanese workers at the Gelephu Orange Export Depot. Bhutanese workers say the orange exporters are not hiring as many Bhutanese as in the past to carry out work such as sorting and packaging oranges. This has left the Bhutanese workers disheartened.

Usually, both Bhutanese and foreign workers from India can be seen sorting and packaging the oranges in crates at the export depot. The scene is different this time.

Now, it is mostly the foreign workers doing the job. Only a few Bhutanese are offered temporary jobs.

Some of the Bhutanese workers claim that they were turned down by Bhutanese exporters.

Tshering Wangmo said, “We don’t get employed here. The workers from India come here and they get the job. If they don’t come here, then maybe we will be recruited. I came here hoping to work, but I didn’t get the job.”

“They bring workers from India in groups and when Bhutanese come here individually, we are not given the work. They fill the vacant posts with Indian workers,” said Tshering Yangden.

However, the exporters say Bhutanese workers are not skilled and diligent like the foreign workers

Moreover, they say the local workers quit jobs in the middle of the season, affecting the orange export.

Chhimi, an orange exporter said, “The problem with the Bhutanese is they don’t do the work as requested. Second, they ask for payment every evening. We provide them with food and lodging, so they don’t need the money until the end of the season. After getting the payment, they go around and get drunk, causing problems. It’s better to have foreign workers.”

“The foreign workers are skilled. They come here in groups, listen to their team leader and work accordingly. But only three or five Bhutanese are looking for the job and work only for a week or two. Then, they take their payments, visit restaurants and get drunk. We face lots of problems with Bhutanese labourers,” said Sangay Chhoden, an orange exporter.

The Bhutan Export Association in Gelephu say they have been able to hire only foreign workers as of now since it is just the start of the export season. Once they start receiving oranges in huge quantities, they plan to employ Bhutanese workers as well.

“We received an order from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment to approve 26 labourers from India to each exporter. We did that accordingly. They are complaining because they see that 26 workers working for each exporter. We are going to hire Bhutanese workers as well,” said Guru Tshering, the Program Officer at the Bhutan Export Association, Gelephu.

Some 13 Bhutanese exporters in Gelephu started orange export from December 1.

Gelephu exported around 8,000 Metric Tonnes of orange worth USD 3.9 M last year.

Karma Wangdi, Gelephu

Edited by Sangay Chezom 

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