709 vessels with 10 lakh tons of goods remain stranded in different jetties
As many as 709 vessels carrying a staggering 10 lakh tons of various types of goods are lying idle in different jetties of the country as water transport workers are observing an indefinite countrywide strike to press home their 11-point demand.
The strike enforced by Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation began at 12:01am on Tuesday.
Nabi Alam, joint secretary of the federation, told Dhaka Tribune that they were compelled to go on a nationwide strike as their demands went unheeded.
The demands include payment of salaries of the water transport workers as per the gazette announced in 2016, food allowance, health care equipment, provision of appointment letters, issuing identity cards and service books to the workers, ensuring their social security, compensation of Tk10 lakh for those killed in workplace accidents, and effective measures to stop extortion on the waterways.
The transportation of goods from Chittagong to all over the country has faced disruption due to the strike.
The unloading operations from mother vessels anchored at the outer anchorage of Chittagong port remained suspended since the strike was enforced.
Water Transport Cell (WTC) Joint Secretary Ataul Kabir Ranju told Dhaka Tribune that 709 vessels laden with around 10 lakh tons of goods like wheat, sugar, clinker, tiles, and ceramic raw materials have been stranded at different jetties across the country due to the strike.
WTC coordinates the movement of individually owned lighter ships in Chittagong and nearby areas.
Businesspersons fear that they will fall in trouble if the workers continue their strike.
They said the cost of doing business might go up due to the disruption to unloading of consumer goods and raw materials.
"The port will face container and vessel congestion and the economy will have to bear the brunt if the deadlock continues," said Mahbub Chowdhury, vice president of Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In Narayanganj, workers of goods-carrying water transports also went on work abstention to realize their demands.
They said that despite the repeated assurances from the government and other stakeholders, their demands were yet to be met.
The workers said they work round the clock but the wages they are given are hardly enough to maintain their families. Moreover, the owners do not pay the wages in time.
Although the government and the owners assured that food allowance will be given to the workers, it is yet to be done, they said.
In Khulna, water transport workers staged demonstrations and brought out a procession in support of their strike on Tuesday morning.
Organizing Secretary of Khulna unit Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation Delwar Hossain said the workers led by him marched with a procession in the city's BIWTA Ghat area around 10am to press home their demands.