Bangladesh: Jute mill workers' protest goes on for 10th day

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - They demand unpaid dues for upto 9 months.

Thousands of agitating jute mill workers blocked roads and railways in Khulna and Jashore yesterday, the second day of their indefinite strike at state-owned jute mills for better wages and arrears.

Workers of nine state-owned mills blocked Dhaka-Khulna highway, railway lines and other roads in the afternoon.

Yesterday was the 10th day of protests by workers of mills under the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC).

In Chattogram, workers abstained from work and staged demonstrations.

Some social orgnisations have been arranging iftar for the workers since the be-ginning of Ramadan on May 7 as they are yet to receive wages for 11 to 13 weeks.

Workers in Khulna region blocked the Dhaka-Khulna highway and railways and demonstrated for around three hours, causing sufferings to commuters yesterday. 

Workers from Daulatpur, Khalishpur, Crescent, Platinum, and Star jute mills gath-ered in front of the main entrances to their mills. They brought out processions which paraded from BIDC road to Notunrasta intersection.

Later, they sat on roads in Kabirbattala and Daulatpur areas and chanted slogans demanding the authorities pay their arrears immediately.

Workers from Alim and Eastern jute mills blocked Dhaka-Khulna highway in Khulna’s Atra industrial area.

In Jashore, workers gathered in Rajghat area and blocked traffic on Khulna-Dhaka highway.

All the Khulna-bound trains from different districts remained stranded in different areas of Jashore and Rajkhat. Besides, two trains had to wait at Khulna Railway Station until 7:00pm, said Manik Chanda Sarker, station manager of the railway station.

Sarder Mothar Uddin, president of Jute Mill Workers’ League, said they have no other option but to stage demonstrations. He alleged that the government was not sincere about solving their problems.

In Demra, workers of two jute mills did not take to the streets for the second straight day yesterday as many of them joined work after receiving five day’s arrears.

Some workers said they were threatened by the ruling Awami League men at their messes that theymust not join the demonstration.

They also alleged that some CBA leaders and their supporters were making a list of workers who did not join work.

“Though we have joined work due to huge pressure, we will wait till Saturday. If our demands are not met by then, we will rejoin the protest,” said Mominur Rahman, a worker of Karim Jute Mills for the last 30 years.

Mohammad Miraz of the same mill said they were threatened by some people from the front organisations of Awami League at their mess on Sunday and Monday.

Workers in Chattogram observed work abstention and staged protests for the second straight second day yesterday.

Workers of Amin Jute Mills gathered outside the main entrance to the mill around 4:00pm and chanted slogans in favour of their demands.

Arifur Rahman, president of Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) of the mill, said the protest would continue for an indefinite period if their demands were not met.

In Sitakunda, workers of Hafiz Jute Mills brought out a procession on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway around 3:00pm and blocked it, disrupting traffic for almost one and a half hours.

Workers of several other mills observed work abstention at their respective work-places.

On September 7, 2015, the cabinet approved the eighth national pay scale which came into effect from July that year. The scale has been implemented in almost all government offices and corporations.

But some 60,000 workers of the 22 state-run jute mills are still waiting for the scale to be implemented. However, all officials and employees under the jute ministry, including those of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, are drawing their salaries un-der the new scale.

On top of this, the agitating workers have not been paid for six to 12 weeks. Officials and employees of the mills have also not been getting their salaries for two to four months.


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