Jute mill workers decided to continue with their 72-hour strike that began on Tuesday
The Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) has agreed to implement the wage commission long demanded by the workers of the state-owned jute mills, hours after the workers launched a fresh strike to press home their demands.
The jute mill authority, which operates under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, issued a letter to the jute mills to implement the wage commission, asking them to complete the salary fixation procedure in accordance with the wage commission recommendations.
The letter, signed by BJMC Secretary AKM Tareq, was sent out to mills in Khulna around 12pm, sources told the Dhaka Tribune.
When contacted, Khulna Crescent Jute Mills Company project head Gazi Shahadat Hossain confirmed that he had received the letter.
The letter came nearly six hours after workers from nine state-owned mills in Khulna and Jessore launched a 72-hour protest at 6am on Tuesday for immediate implementation of their nine demands, which also include payment of outstanding salaries, due gratuities and provident fund for retired workers.
Workers of state-owned jute mills in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Narsingdi also joined in the demonstration.
Despite the BJMC’s move, the protesters have decided to continue with their strike, citing that the BJMC had yet to take initiatives to fulfil all nine of their demands.
The decision to continue with the strike took place at the district’s Crescent Jute Mills workers union office on Tuesday night.
Three workers’ bodies – the Jute Mills Workers League, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and non-CBA Oikya Parishad – organized the strike.
Four years of frustration
On the first day of their three-day strike on Tuesday, jute mill workers in Khulna said the authorities concerned had not taken steps to realize the workers’ demands, at the centre of which is the jute mill wage commission, formulated four years ago.
They added that workers have yet to get their due wages, provident fund and permanent employment of transferred workers, which is why they launched the fresh protest.
“Jute mills in the Khulna region have yet to pay six weeks’ worth of wages to their workers, and two months’ worth of wages to their staff,” said Jakir Hossain, general secretary of the combined central committee of jute mill workers’ CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad.
“Production in these jute mills dropped sharply due to financial issues. The BJMC promised to implement the wage commission at the state-owned jute mills by March 28, but it has yet to become a reality,” Jakir told the Dhaka Tribune.
The workers’ leader added that they had decided on Monday to launch the strike the next day to press home the workers’ demands.
A red-flag rally was held in the district where jute workers of several factories gathered and voiced their demands.
Protesters block roads, railways
Jute mill workers blocked off railway tracks and highways across the country as they began their three-day strike on Tuesday.
The blockades created traffic congestion, causing inconvenience to commuters and travellers – especially people going to work and school.
Workers of two jute mills in Demra, Dhaka blocked a road while observing the 72-hour strike.
The workers of Latif Bawani Jute Mills and Karim Jute Mills blocked the road near the Demra Staff Quarter area around 8:30am, for more than five hours.
Demra police station OC Siddiqur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that the workers started gathering in the area at 7am, but withdrew the blockade around 2pm after speaking to the police.
Replying to a question, the police officer also said the workers staged their demonstration peacefully, without causing any chaos.
“So there was no need of arresting anyone, or filing any cases,” the OC said.
Workers of jute mills in Khulna and Jessore blocked the highways and railways down in the two districts at 8am and continued till 12pm, enforcing it in the key areas of the region, including the Khalishpur New Road intersection in Khulna, in front of Alim Jute Mills in Atra, in Rajghat in Jessore, and in parts of the Khulna-Jessore highway.
Khalilur Rahman, workers’ leaders at the Platinum Jute Mills in Khulna, confirmed the matter to the Dhaka Tribune.
Although the blockage ended at 12pm in Khulna, trains did not resume operation until 1:20pm as tracks were checked for damages, said the Khulna Railway Station Master Manik Chandra.
In Rajshahi, jute mill workers led a procession in the Katakhali area of the Rajshahi-Dhaka highway around 10:30am. The procession completely shut down the highway, but later, police arrived and removed the demonstrators peacefully.
In Chittagong, workers blocked off the Hathazari-Muradpur road, in front of Amin Jute Mills, and stopped several trains, including the Chittagong University shuttle train, from leaving the station, Bayezid police station OC Ataur Rahman confirmed.
In Narsingdi, workers of UMC Jute Mills and Bangladesh Jute Mills in Ghorashal brought out processions and staged demonstrations in front of the factories to press home their demands.
‘Strike will continue’
The leaders of the workers of the nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna and Jessore held an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening, where they decided to continue with their strike, even though the BJMC had agreed to implement the wage commission.
Platinum Jute Mills workers’ leader Khalilur Rahman, who is also the joint convener at the central committee of CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad, said the leaders had agreed to continue with the demonstration as the government had not agreed to meet all nine of their demands.
The decision to continue with the strike took place at the district’s Crescent Jute Mills workers union office.
“The government has only accepted one of our demands. They had not said anything about our demands to clear outstanding salaries, and payment of the gratuities and provident funds of the retired workers, among others,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Dhaka Tribune Reporter Arifur Rahman Rabbi, and district correspondents Dulal Abdullah, Rajshahi and Asaduzzaman Ripon, Narsingdi contributed to this report