In a developing country like Nepal there is always a labor surplus, and with it unemployment and under- employment. The result is a permanent danger of exploitation low wages, long hours, poor working condition, often unsafe and unhealthy, inadequate clothing and equipment, no accident or health insurance, and no pension provision. Anyone who has been trekking in Nepal will have seen porters laboring under excessive loads, wearing flip flops or cut - down Wellington boots, and aged before their time Visitors to Nepal , even if they are young and traveling on a tight budget, are relatively well - off compared to most local people. We have responsibility to help those on whom we rely as porters and guides improve their wages and conditions and realize their right to a decent standard of living.
It has been estimated that there are some 20 - 25, 000 porters and guides in Nepal who depends for their living on the trekking business. Many, if not most of these are illegal in that they have no training and are unlicensed. They are often uneducated and unaware of basic safety procedures, which results in unnecessary risks and accidents, and they are not insured. Many trekking agencies are most concerned with driving costs down than with the health, safety and well - being of those they employ. It is in response workers, along with workers in related fields, have formed a trade union, the Union of Trekking, Travel, Rafting Airline and Cargo Workers ( UNITRAV).
UNITRAV has around 3, 000 members. It is registered with the Ministry of Labor of Nepal and affiliated to the General Federation of Nepalese Travel Unions, the largest trade union federation in Nepal. It seeks to organize all workers in the sectors it covers. Its activities include: action to improve wages and working conditions; support for workers subject to discrimination and oppression: and the provision of services, such as clothing and equipment banks at popular trekking starting points, shelters for porters at high altitudes, regular health check - ups, rescue and relief funds, and education and training programs. It is also committed to ecologically sustainable trekking. It negotiates on labor, tourism and environmental issues with employers' organizations and the government.
Seek out less popular lodges, and private homes or Bhatti rather than patronizing the most frequented places. This distribution of income will have a significant overall economic impact in the area. It is not uncommon to go through a popular trekking stop and find everyone trying to stay at one facility, not necessarily because it is the best but because everyone else is there. Avoid this hard mentality.
Wherever possible, hire a porter or guide in Nepal, not your own country, to ensure that money benefits the Nepalese economy and Nepalese workers directly, rather than overseas based companies.
Make sure that the trekking agency actually observes its responsibility to ensure that its porters and guides are properly trained, equipped, paid, and insured. Also check this directly with the porters and guides, themselves.
If you think your porter or guide is being exploited in any way, complain to the agency and report it to the union, which will intervene to defend their rights.
The union is responsible and seeks to reach agreement with employers and the government, wherever possible. It recognizes that there are limits to the wages that the local economy can bear. However, it seeks to level up, not down.
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