Because of the ongoing strike by jute mill employees in Khulna, most of the workers are without an income and unable to pay for food and other basic necessities.
They began their work abstention program on December 18, 2017 demanding they get their two months back-pay wages, organized by Bangladesh state-owned Jute Mill CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad.
More than 25,000 workers of eight jute mills in Jessore and Khulna began continuous protests to press home their 11-point demand, halting the production of these factories.
This almost month-long situation has left the workers and their families in a state of financial despair.
Shahanaj Parvin, an employee of Khulna’s Platinum Jute Mill told the Dhaka Tribune: “I could not admit my son to class nine because of this financial crisis. I cannot take my husband to a doctor or buy the medicine needed for my son. I cannot feed my family more than one meal a day.
“I have run out credit with the local shopkeepers and I do not know how to survive.”
The families of 25 thousand workers from six jute mills in Khulna and Jessore are living through similar hard times.
Aleya Begum, 58 is a part time worker at the mill. She told the Dhaka Tribune that her entire family depends on her and now they only get to eat one meal per day.
Solaiman of Crescent Jute Mill can no longer bear the expenses of his daughter’s engineering college. She has had to drop out because the family is starving.
The CBA leader Sohrab Hossain said: “the BJMC officials are taking away the profit without paying the employees their the proper wages.”
The regional Coordinator of BGMC Khulna, Gaji Shahadat Hossain mentions, the selling of jute goods in Sudan can be obtained any minute. Then the plan of paying the remaining wages can be authorized.
On January 17 A meeting to resolve this issue was held on Monday between the government officials and representatives of the protesting workers at the Khulna deputy commissioner’s office.
The meeting was attended by lawmaker Begum Monnujan Sufian, Khulna Deputy Commissioner Md Amin Ul Ahsan, Departmen0t of Labour’s Deputy Director Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) Khulna zone chief Gazi Shahadat Hossain, administrators of the jute mills, police officials, labour leaders, and officials of several government officers.
At the meeting, the government officials assured the workers that all their due wages would be cleared after they received the sales turnover.
However, the workers did not agree to these terms and said they would continue to abstain from work until they were fully paid.
When contacted, Sohrab Hossain, one of the workers who is leading the movement, said they had decided not to resume work at the factories until their demands were met.
“The administration offered to pay one or two weeks worth of wages and asked us to return to work. But the workers have rejected this proposal and will continue to protest until they pay our all dues,” he added.
The ongoing protest by jute mill workers in Khulna turned aggressive on Sunday as they brought out a stick procession in the city on the 22nd day of protest.
The workers have been abstaining from work and staging demonstration for more than three weeks to press home their 11-point demand including full payment of overdue wages.
On January 21, the agitated workers of six jute mills in Khalishpur, Atara and Jessore areas in Khulna gathered in front of their mills around 10am and began their march carrying sticks, demanding resignation of State Minister for Jute and Textiles Mirza Azam and Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) Chairman Md Mahmudul Hassan.
The protesters marched through the important industrial thoroughfares of the city before ending the march back at their respective mills.
Later, Bangladesh State-Owned Jute Mill CBA-Non CBA Oikya Parishad Convener Sohrab Hossain, Joint Convener Kawsar Ali, and other labour leaders addressed a rally of the protesters.
Sohrab announced the upcoming programs for the protest, which include hunger procession on January 24, press meet on January 25, rally at 3pm on January 26, 48-hour hartal and protest march in Khulna starting from January 28, and highway-railway blockade from 8am to 12pm on January 31.
He warned that if their demands were not met by January 31, the central committee of the workers’ association would meet in Dhaka on January 4 and announce the next protest program.
Demanding full payment of their dues, the workers of Crescent, Platinum, Doulatpur, Star, Eastern, Alim and JJI jute mills started abstention from work on December 28, 2017, followed by the workers of Khalishpur Jute Mill who began their protest on December 30.
Among the protesters, workers of Doulatpur and Khalishpur jute mills went back to work after receiving partial payment of their wages.
The workers of the other six mills continued their protest, pressing home their 11-point demand.