Suffering of commuters continued on Friday, as operations at most river ports across Bangladesh were disrupted for the fourth consecutive days.
Most vessels in Barisal, Chandpur, Chittagong and other ports in the country have been anchored at terminals since early hours of Tuesday when transport workers under the banner of the Water Transport Workers’ Movement Committee went on a wildcat strike for indefinite period, demanding their several point demands.
The demands include fixation of minimum salary for the river transport workers at Tk 10,000 and stoppage of extortion on river routes.
Ohidul Islam Bulbul, convenor of Water Transport Workers’ Movement Committee, told the Dhaka Tribune that they would continue their strike until the government fixed Tk10,000 as minimum wage for waterway transport workers.
He also said vessels were plying in a limited scale at several places and the percentage was less then 30%.
He also expressed hope that a solution might come from today's meeting which would be held between the representatives of the government and leaders of transport workers.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Ministry Mujibule Haque Chunnu is likely to preside over the meeting at Labour Department in Dhaka.
Earlier, a meeting was held between the government and launch owners association over the deadlock on Thursday, but no solution came out from the meeting.
After that meeting, Director of Labour Department FM Ashrafuzzaman told journalists that they would sit with transport leaders soon to resolve the ongoing crisis.
According to our Barisal correspondent, operation of passenger-carrying vessels started on the Dhaka-Barisal route in a limited scale.
Passengers alleged that taking the advantage of strike, transport work took additional money.
Rezanur Rahman, a resident of Muladi, said: “I have to go to Dhaka for an emergency. Transport workers are taking extra money from us. I have no way but to give them the amount what they are demanding.”
Mustafizur Rahman, an official at Barisal river port, said MV Suravi left Barisal port for Bhola via Sreepur and Veduria at about 2pm and MV Green Water left the port for Maju Chowdhurir Hut via Patarhut at 4pm.
Apart from this, MV Sundarban 10, MV Kirtankhola 2, MV Suravi 8, MV Parabat 9 and MV Farhan 8 left the port at night, he added.
Sheikh Abdur Rahim, vice-president of Barisal Launch Owners' Association, said a group of water transport workers started strike violating law making the passengers and owners hostages, but they decided to start plying of launches to ease people's sufferings.
Giasuddin, convener of Water Transport Workers Movement Association, said owners trying to ply some passenger launches by creating pressure on workers.
“But the numbers of the workers were very few and the strike of 200,000 workers is going on full swing.”
Abdul Motaleb, assistant police superintendent of river police at Barisal, said law enforcing agencies arranged and assured safety and security of the vessels, workers and passengers at the port.
Meanwhile, operational activities in 16 jetties of Karnaphuli River and the outer anchorage of Chittagong Port remained suspended.
Transportation of goods from jetties of Karnaphuli River to different parts of the country also remained suspended.
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 are not participating in current strike as the oil tanker owners’ association accepted the new wage, sources said.