Around 80,000 workers of 26 state-owned mills under Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation are mulling tougher movement after May 18 as the government, after three days of their nationwide strike on Wednesday, has taken no measures whatsoever to realise their arrears and eight other demands.
Labour leaders said that the workers in Khulna, Chattogram, Sirajganj, Narshingdi and Rajshahi continued their protest for the third consecutive day but none of the government agencies showed willingness to contact them to settle the issue.
‘We will launch tougher movement after May 18, if demands are not met,’ said the Jute Mill Workers’ League president Sardar Motahar Uddin.
He however did not disclose the type of movement they would start to press home the same demands that included implementation of National Wage and Productivity Commission Award 2015.
The demands that forced the workers to go out on a strike included — adequate budgetary allocation for the jute sector, payment of the outstanding provident fund and gratuity to the retired workers and settlement of insurance benefits to be paid to the families of the deceased workers, recruitment of workers, regularisation of temporary workers and reinstatement of sacked workers and the balancing, modernisation, rehabilitation and expansion of jute mills for better productivity.
Workers said that with the wages unpaid for 10 to 13 weeks they were passing inhuman life faced with dire financial crisis.
The agitated workers under the banner of Patkol Sramik League and CBA-non-CBA Sramik-Karmachari Oikya Parishad started an indefinite movement on last Monday.
As part of their movement the workers blockaded roads, highways and the railway from 4:00pm to 7:00pm in Khulna, Rajshahi and Chattogram.
The workers offered the Asar and the Magrib prayers and took their Iftar on the roads.
Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, or BJMC, chairman Shah Muhammad Nasim said if the workers continued their strike, the mills would plunge further into financial crisis.
He admitted that workers’ demands were legitimate but BJMC could not pay the wages and arrears until the government allotted the money.
‘We expect to pay the workers within the month of Ramadan after receiving special allocations from the government,’ he said and urged the workers to resume work.
The workers of the state-owned jute mills went on strikes twice earlier, for three days from April 2 and four days from April 15 and on both occasions they also blockaded the roads, highways and the railway.
Earlier, the workers withdrew their strike on April 16 morning and returned to work after the government accepted the demands at a tripartite meeting of the labour directorate, the BJMC and the labour leaders in the presence of the state minister for labour and employment Begum Monnujan Sufian in the capital on the night of April 15.
They resumed demonstration as the government did not follow through on the promises made in the tripartite meeting.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, BTUC in short, on Wednesday at a rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club, called on the government to take steps to resolve the crisis of the workers of the state owned jute mills before Eid-ul-fitr.
Labour leader and president of the BTUC said that the workers of the state-owned jute mills were staging demonstrations in demand of payment of their arrears.
He called on the government to take immediate steps to resolve the crisis and clear the wages and arrears of the state-owned jute mills workers.
Waged-ul Islam Khan, general secretary of the organisation, also called on the government to take steps to pay the wages and festival allowance of the workers, especially workers of the garment sector, before the coming Eid.
Labour leaders Abdul Malek, Abdur Razzaque, Sahida Parveen Shikha and others spoke at the rally. The rally was followed by a protest procession that paraded through different city roads.
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