The protesters blocked roads and railways to demand overdue wages
Jute mill workers across Bangladesh had blocked railway tracks and highways, while observing a four-hour shutdown to press home their demands for unpaid wages and other benefits.
The shutdown was enforced from 8am to 12pm by workers of nine state-owned jute mills across Khulna, Jessore, and several other districts across Bangladesh—on Thursday—as part of the final day of a 72-hour strike that began on Tuesday.
The protesters are observing the strike demanding a wage commission, the immediate payment of due gratuities, and a provident fund. The strike is scheduled to end at 6am on Friday.
In Khulna, the four-hour blockade of roads and railways began at 8am. Workers enforced 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 on Tuesday.
Workers from major mills—including Crescent, Platinum, Khalishpur, Daulatpur, Star, Eastern and Alim jute mills— engaged in the movement. They led protest processions in the city, held rallies and burned tires to press home their demands.
After the conclusion of the shutdown, normal traffic has resumed in key parts of the city, such as Sonadanga Bus stand and BIDC Road.
Khulna Railway Station Master Manik Chandra said all train movement will resume after being suspended since 6am on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Platinum Jute Mill workers’ leader Khalilur Rahman from Khulna said: “The four-hour shutdown on highways and railways began at 8am, as part of the 2nd day of an 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 our nine-point demands, including the implementation of a wage commission.
“We have taken to the streets to realize our demands, as the authorities have yet to take steps towards fulfilling them.”
Jute mill workers’ leader Sohrab Hossain said: “Workers are yet to receive due wages for eight- to-ten weeks, while employees are waiting for their two-to-four weeks of salary. We have no choice but to engage in this ongoing strike.”
In Jessore, workers had gathered in the Rajghat area, completely blocking off the traffic on roads and highways. However, normal traffic movement resumed after conclusion of the shutdown at 12pm.
Protesters did not gather on different parts of the railway tracks, because train movement has already been suspended in Khulna.
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 a clear indication from the BJMC regarding the fulfillment of our demands. So, we have resumed our pre-scheduled shutdown and strike.
“After the conclusion of our pre-scheduled 72-hour strike on 6am in Friday, we will hold a meeting on Friday and discuss what to do next if our demands remain unfulfilled.”
In Narsingdi, thousands of protesting jute mill workers blocked off the railway for around one hour, as part of a pre-scheduled shutdown.
Train services returned to normal around 12pm. Confirming the matter, Narsingdi mode police station OC Sayeduzzaman said: “The shutdown snapped rail communication on the Dhaka-Sylhet, Dhaka-Chittagong, and Dhaka-Kishoreganj routes for an hour.
“The workers pelted stones at the trains, breaking glass windows and injuring around 20 passengers. Around 5,000 workers participated in the shutdown.”
CBA President Shafiqul Islam, General Secretary Kamal Hossain were present during the movement, among many others.
Addressing the demo, the workers’ leaders warned that they will wage a tougher movement if their demands are not fulfilled.
In Chittagong, workers had blocked off the Hathazari-Muradpur road in front of the Amin Jute Mill, disrupting traffic in the area. The traffic has since become normal after 12pm.
Bayazid police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ataur Rahman confirmed the matter to the Dhaka Tribune.
Meanwhile, Government Railway Police (GRP) OC Mustafiz Buiyan said: “Train movement from Dhaka to Chittagong was not affected by the shutdown of protesting jute mill workers.”
Responding to query, Amin Jute Mill CBA Office Secretary and workers’ leader Kamal Uddin said: “After the conclusion of the ongoing 72-hour strike, we will decide the next course of action in a Central Jute Mill Workers’ League meeting in Dhaka on April 7.”