The Water Transport Workers’ Movement Council called the strike demanding their several demands that include fixing minimum salary of the river transport workers at Tk10,000, sufficient measures to check robberies and extortion on the river routes and increasing navigability of the rivers.
No vessel, including goods-laden cargo, ran on the Dhaka-Barisal route, much to cause sufferings for the people travel on the route.
Many people were seen waiting for vessels at Barisal port yesterday. People who live in remote areas of the southern region suffered most as vessel is the only mode of their transportation.
Achia Khatun, a resident of Muladi, said she had an emergency in Dhaka. She said: “I did not know about the strike. Now I have to go to Dhaka by road.”
Many people alleged that taking the advantage of strike, bus and truck workers were taking extra from them.
Mahabub Alam, a resident of Swarupkati, said he wanted to go to Bhola's Monpura.
“I have to go back to home because launch is the only transport to go there,” he said.
On the day, agitated river transport workers also barred anchoring a triple-deck vessel MV Farhan 8 owned by Jatiya Party leader and former MP Golam Kibria Tipu, from anchoring at Barisal port.
On receiving information, police rushed to the spot and dispersed the workers from port area, said Abdul Motaleb, additional superintendent of police.
“If any river transport wants to anchor or leave the port, law enforcing agencies will assure safety and security for that,” he said.
Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Water Transport Workers’ Federation, said they would continue their strike until their demands were met.
In Chittagong, cargo loading and unloading were suspended at Karnaphuli River and the outer anchorage of Chittagong port.
Water Vessel Workers Federation Convener Wejul Alam Bulbul said: “Our demand is a minimum wage of Tk10,000 for the workers, revised compensation package for workers who are killed in accidents on board, stop robbery in water routes and protect river navigability.”
Bulbul said earlier in April, after another wildcat strike by the workers, the government announced a new wage chart for the cargo vessel workers after having a meeting with them.
“But two vessel owners' associations, Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners' Association and Bangladesh Passenger Transport Owners' Association, refused to implement the government-formulated wage chart. They also went to court to stay the decision.”
Workers abstained from unloading and loading cargo at 16 jetties of Karnaphuli River as well as Chittagong port.
“A total of 611 goods-laden lighter vessels were stranded across the country as loading and unloading of goods were halted following the strike,” Water Transport Cell Joint Secretary Kazi Ataul Kabir Ranju told the Dhaka Tribune.
Lighter vessel workers previously enforced another wildcat strike on April 20 to press home a 15-point demand which included raising minimum wage.
After six days of deadlock, the strike was withdrawn after a meeting between Shipping Minister Md Shajahan Khan and cargo ship workers, where the wage was increased to Tk10,000 from Tk7,000.
Workers of oil tankers were not participating in current strike as the oil tanker owners' association accepted the new wage, sources said.