12:00 AM, May 15, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 15, 2010

Seek mercy, lift strike by today

Minister asks river vessel workers; normalcy returning

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Staff Correspondent

Movement of vessels on all routes became almost normal while loading and unloading of goods in Mongla and Chittagong seaports remained mostly suspended yesterday, the seventh day of indefinite water transport strike.
Meantime, Shipping Minster Shahjahan Khan extended the government ultimatum for transport workers to resume work by 24 hours, provided they plead for mercy.
The workers, who had not joined work within the Friday deadline, can do so by 5:00pm today only after making a plea for mercy. Otherwise, legal action will be taken against them, the minister said at a press briefing.
He also warned that the workers' certificates of competency would be cancelled or suspended in line with the Inland Shipping Ordinance, 1976, if they do not resume work by the deadline.
Shahjahan said show cause notices would be issued to the workers, who went on strike. If they fail to show proper reason for abandoning work in 72 hours after issuance of the notices, their certificates of competency would be cancelled or suspended.
He said Navy personnel and coastguards had been keeping guard over oil tankers at Chittagong port to ward off any subversive attempt.
The minister termed the strike a deep conspiracy by a group of workers. It hampered economic activities and caused untold sufferings to people. But the government foiled the conspiracy, he said.
Shahjahan also ruled out any possibility of negotiation with the federation leaders until withdrawal of the strike.
Rear Admiral (retd) Bazlur Rahman, director general of Department of Shipping, said they had received reports that 51 water transport workers abandoned vessels until last night.
Meanwhile, leaders and activists of Bangladesh Noujan Sramik Federation remained firm on their decision to continue the strike.
Federation Vice President Zinnat Ali Master said they would continue the strike until unconditional release of its leaders and activists, and announcement of a new wage structure for water transport workers.
Of 30 launches, 20 left Sadarghat terminal and 22 anchored there yesterday, said officials at senior deputy director's (traffic) office at Sadarghat.
Our Chittagong correspondent reports: 25 mother vessels remained idle at the Chittagong port's outer anchorage while over 100 lighter vessels were stranded at several jetties there.
Our Khulna correspondent adds: The strike had completely paralysed the port. Six foreign vessels had been lying idle at Mongla port while over 200 vessels remained stranded there.
The federation called the countrywide strike on May 8 rejecting the new wage structure for transport workers. The wages of water transport workers were raised by 50-100 percent and their minimum wage was fixed at Tk 2,850.

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