The company has not paid its workers since January
Setabganj Sugar Mills, the only sustainable heavy industry in Dinajpur, has been failing to pay wages and salaries to its permanent and seasonal workers and employees since January.
The company employs a total of 935 workers and employees, including seasonal workers. These workers, through a recent press briefing, said they with their families were leading lives of misery without any income for the past three months. The countrywide shutdown has also left seasonal workers without any other sources of income.
The mills owe around Tk31 crore in outstanding wages, salaries and other factory expenses, say mill sources. However, to settle the three months’ outstanding salaries and wages of the seasonal workers, the company urgently requires Tk5 crore.
The unsold sugar stockpiled at the warehouses is causing difficulties in the arrangement of funds for full payment to be made to its workers and employees, mills sources said.
However, the authorities also allege that the stockpiled sugar will not earn sufficient revenue to pay off all the debts of the mills.
According to mill sources, 2,459 tons of sugar were produced in FY2019-20, whereas the production target had been set at 3,490 tons.
Mahbub Alam, a seasonal worker at the mills, said: “We had to work very hard to earn our pay but now if we don’t get our due wages, how will we survive with our families?”
“Some of us seasonal workers could do other odd jobs but that’s not possible now due to the countrywide shutdown. Despite repeated appeals to workers’ union leaders no steps have been taken.”
Badruddoza Bapon, a permanent worker at the mills, said: “The authorities should understand our position here. How can we survive with our families without any income for three months?”
Workers’ Union President Prasant Kumar Chauhan said: “The workers are spending their days on empty stomachs and there is no one to look to their sufferings. We have been incessantly demanding a remedy to this situation from higher officials but concrete steps have yet to be taken toward a resolution of the problem. I hope the matter is resolved soon. ”
Setabganj Sugar Mills Managing Director SM Jakir Hossain said: “We are failing to clear the due salaries and wages by just selling off the stockpiled sugar. When we asked for additional funds from the head office, we were instructed to sell off the stockpiled sugar to arrange the necessary funds. But the sugar stockpiles aren’t enough to pay off all the dues.
“We have not made the expected revenue this season, so paying off workers and other expenses within a stipulated time has become difficult.”
“We have already notified the higher authorities regarding these complications. We hope we can soon take the necessary steps to pay off permanent employees, seasonal workers and farmers,” he said.