Shipping Minister says they are aware of plots targeted at interrupting government functions
Despite government initiatives to normalize the ongoing countrywide cargo vessel strike, workers and owners' association leaders representing the sector are reluctant to go for a compromise, thus hindering efforts for a solution.
The ruling Awami League till now was able to swiftly control and put an end to other strikes by workers and owners, especially those related to the road transport and water transport sectors.
However, the ongoing cargo vessels strike, which started on Tuesday morning, is all set to roll into day three on Thursday, as it seems an understanding between the government and the protestors will be hard to come by.
This strike -- an indefinite countrywide strike by water transport workers to press home their 11-point demand -- has resulted in as many as 709 vessels, carrying a staggering 10 lakh tons of various types of goods, lying idle in different jetties of the country.
However, according to the Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation, as many as five thousand goods carriers, including all types of marine and inland cargo vessels like general cargo vessels, container ships, tankers and different types of bulks cargo, are not being operated in solidarity with the strike.
Conspiracies driving protest?
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said: “We believe that a group of cargo vessel owners are hatching conspiracies to create an unstable situation to put the government in a difficult situation.
“Thus, we have recommended that the high-ups in the government be strict in dealing with such conspiracies,” he added.
For his part, Minister of State for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said: “Getting food allowance is a basic demand of workers.
“Owners should fulfill this demand as soon as possible.”
“We are aware of the conspiracies targeted at interrupting government functions,” he added.
Owners’ cite Covid-19 crisis as reason for not meeting demands
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners’ Association (BCVOA) Secretary Nurul Hoque said: “At this point, we cannot compromise as we are going through a very tough time in our business due to Covid-19.”
“We will call a strike if any government body tries to force us to fulfill the demands made by the workers,” he told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
Also Read - Countrywide water transport strike underway
Earlier on Monday, BIWTA arranged a meeting with leaders of the owners’ association and workers’ federations and officials of the labour department and Commerce Ministry to solve the crisis.
All those who participated in the meeting requested the owners to fulfill at least the basic demands made by the cargo vessel workers’ but they did not comply.
“We requested the owners to initially at least pay Tk1,000 per month as food allowance although the workers demanded Tk5,000 but the owners refused to do so,” said Commodore Golam Sadeq.
BCVOA even threatened to stop paying those who are taking part in the strike.
BCVOA Secretary Nurul Hoque said: “As we cannot even pay the regular wages of the workers, how can we pay for food allowances?”
Md Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation, said that the owners had promised the workers that they would provide food allowance by March this year after a meeting held on November 27 last year.
“We will continue our strike until our demands are met,” he added.
The demands made by the cargo vessel workers include payment of salaries of the water transport workers as per the gazette announced in 2016, food allowance, health care equipment, provision of appointment letters, issuing identity cards and service books to workers, ensuring their social security, compensation of Tk10 lakh for those killed in workplace accidents, and effective measures to stop extortion on the waterways.