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Jute workers block off roads, railways as strike continues

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Jute mills workers block off a highway in Khulna during their four-hour shutdown on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

Protesters are observing the strike for the second consecutive day demanding due wages

Jute mills workers in different parts of the country have blocked off railway tracks and highways during a four-hour shutdown to press home their demands for unpaid wages and other benefits. 

The shutdown is being enforced by workers of nine state-owned jute mills across Khulna and Jessore, and several other districts across Bangladesh, such as in Rajshahi and Chittagong, as part of the 2nd day of the 72-hour strike, which began from 6am on Tuesday.

The protesters are observing the strike demanding a wage commission, immediate payment of due gratuities and a provident fund.

Confirming the matter to the Dhaka Tribune, Platinum Jute Mill workers’ leader Khalilur Rahman from Khulna said: “The 4-hour shutdown on highways and railways began from 8am, as part of the 2nd day of our ongoing 72-hour strike and work abstention.”

Khalilur, who serves as the joint convener of state-owned jute mill CBA and Non-CBA Oikya Parishad, continued: “The Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) promised to fulfill only one point of our nine-point demand, and did not give any directives regarding the other eight.”

Also Read- Jute mill workers to continue protest despite BJMC assurance

“Frustrated with the BJMC move, workers leaders made the decision to continue the ongoing demonstration at a meeting on Tuesday night,” he said.

The matter was also confirmed by the Jute Mill Workers’ League Central Assistant Secretary Murad Hossain, who presided over the workers’ meeting.

In Khulna, the 4-hour blockade of roads and railways began at 8am. Workers are enforcing blockades in key areas of the region, such as the Khalishpur new road intersection in Khulna, in front of Alim Jute Mill in Atra, and parts of the Khulna-Jessore highway, from 8am to 12pm on Tuesday.

Khulna Railway Station Master Manik Chandra said no train has left the station since 6am on Wednesday, and the rail communication from Khulna to the rest of the country has snapped as a result.

In Jessore, more than 3,000 workers have taken position in the Rajghat area, completely blocking off the traffic on roads and highways. Protesters have also taken up positions on different parts of the railway tracks, with aims to suspend train movement until 12pm.

Also Read- Jute Ministry seeks Tk500cr to pay undue wages

The protesters are mostly workers from the Jessore Jute Industry (JJI) and Carpeting Jute Mill Ltd.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Carpeting Jute Mill CBA President Jahidul Islam said: “We did not receive any clear indication from the BJMC regarding the fulfillment of our demands. So we have resumed our pre-scheduled shutdown and strike.”

In Chittagong, workers have blocked off the Hathazari-Muradpur road in front of the Amin Jute Mill, bringing traffic to a complete halt.

The protesters also blocked off the railways, but allowed the Chittagong University shuttle train to leave the station following a request from the authorities concerned.

Amin Jute Mill CBA Office Secretary and workers’ leader Kamal Uddin confirmed the matter to the correspondent.