Bangladesh: Jute workers likely to get arrears soon

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Prime Minister's Office has given a direct instruction in this regard.

The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday asked the secretary of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) to submit lists of state-run jute mill workers and their bank account details so that their arrears and retirement benefits could be paid.

In a letter signed by Jajrin Nahar, director-11 at the PMO, the BJMC secretary was asked to submit the required information within three working days.

BJMC Secretary AKM Tareque told The Daily Star, “We have already started preparing the lists. We have been trying our best to pay the arrears of the workers before Eid.”

According to BJMC officials, they have been working on the lists after receiving a similar directive from the finance ministry last week.

The government is considering to pay the arrears of the workers through their bank accounts to reduce their hassles in receiving payments and avoid misappropriation by alleged “ghost workers” in the jute mills, said Mizanur Rahman, secretary at the ministry of ministry of textiles and jute.

Earlier, BJMC sought Tk 337 crore to clear the arrears and wages of its 32,740 workers and employees.

Meanwhile, Sramajibi O Shilpa Rakkha Andolan, a newly launched labour rights combine, yesterday demanded that the government clear all arrears of the state-run jute mill workers by 20th Ramadan (May 26).

The labour leaders made the demands through a memorandum to the BJMC office in Motijheel around 11:30am.

BJMC Secretary AKM Tareque received the memorandum.

Earlier in the day, different workers’ forums demonstrated in front of the BJMC building.

Speaking at a rally, Manzurul Ahasan Khan, convener of the Sramajibi O Shilpa Rakkha Andolan, said, “The government is out to destroy the jute industry following the prescriptions of the World Bank and the IMF.”

“Government has been implementing the privatisation process of state-owned jute mills by not allotting necessary funds, by not modernising the production technologies, and by nurturing corruption,” alleged the convener of the platform.

Jolly Takukder, general secretary of Garments Workers’ Trade Union Centre, said, “We have seen how the largest jute mill -- Adamjee Jute Mill -- was shut down. While Adamjee was declared shut down, at least eight new jute mills (private) were launched.”

Meanwhile, jute mill workers in Khulna region yesterday announced that they would extend the duration of their ongoing road-railways blockade programmes from Wednesday.

They will enforce blockade for six hours (8:00am to 2:00pm) everyday instead of the three hours a day.

Jute mills workers’ leaders made the decision at a meeting held at Khalishpur Jute Mills Workers’ Union office.

Murad Hossain, president of Crescent Jute mill workers’ association, announced the programme following the meeting.

The jute mill workers in Rajshahi, Dhaka, and Chattogram did not demonstrate yesterday. All workers were reported to have joined work.

Since March 29, workers of 25 state-owned jute mills have been demonstrating to realise their nine-point demand, including implementation of a new pay scale and payment of all arrears. This means a production loss of about Tk 13 crore a week, according to BJMC officials.

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