12:00 AM, February 18, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 18, 2013

Milk Vita choking

Trade union blocks salaries of all since January to protect jobs of 76 illegal recruits

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Tawfique Ali

The trade union in the state-run dairy Milk Vita halted production for hours at the company's largest milk pasteurisation plant in capital's Mirpur yesterday in a bid to save the jobs of 76 illegally-appointed employees.
However, the production at the plant resumed at night following the intervention of police, said sources in the organisation.
The union members earlier forced Khondker Anisur Rahman, deputy general manager and in-charge of the plant, to leave office, creating panic among other company officials.
In another development, some of the 76 employees backed by the Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA) drove out ASM Idris, in-charge of Milk Vita's Baghabari plant, of his office yesterday, said company officials.
The CBA earlier forced the company's accounts section to suspend work on the salary bills of all staff for January to mount pressure on the authorities for retaining the jobs of the illegally-appointed employees and paying them salaries regularly.
None of the staff could draw salaries for last month, said sources.
Mohammad Munir Chowdhury, acting managing director of Milk Vita, said they are trying to resolve the ongoing crisis.
The state minister for LGRD and cooperatives is expected to hold a meeting with the Milk Vita authorities and the CBA today to find a solution to the crisis.
Jahangir Alam Maznu, the CBA president and a supervisor of Milk Vita, said, "We had earlier warned the authorities of such consequences if they stopped paying salaries to the 76 employees."
In connivance with the CBA, the management committee of Bangladesh Milk Producers' Cooperative Union, which owns the Milk Vita brand, made the appointments on January 9 without having any legal jurisdiction.
The Rural Development and Cooperatives Division under the LGRD and cooperatives ministry has ordered the Milk Vita authorities to scrap the appointments and stop paying the new recruits.
Some from the CBA assaulted a manager of the company on January 19, as he conveyed the government's decision to the CBA members for scrapping the appointments, said another official wishing anonymity.
They also threatened to stop production at the factory.
Jahangir said they have blocked the disbursement of salaries to compel the authorities to pay the newly-appointed employees.
On the assault on the company manager, Jahangir said he was unaware of the incident. He also refuted the allegation of making any threats to stop the company's production.
Five years ago, the government had dismissed 387 Milk Vita employees who were appointed flouting the rules.
But much to the surprise of many, the authorities have recently proposed reappointment of 54 people, who had been dismissed earlier.
Though Hasib Khan Tarun, chairman of Milk Vita's 12-member management committee, didn't have any jurisdiction to make any appointments, he unilaterally issued appointment letters to 76 job seekers, including the 54, show official documents.
A recruitment committee headed by the company's general manager is designated for issuing appointment letters to job seekers upon approval by the Department of Cooperatives.
The government on January 14 asked the chairman to cancel all illegal appointments and the entire recruitment process. Instead of complying with the directive, the chairman instigated the CBA to put pressure on the authorities concerned for retaining the new recruits, said official sources.
Talking to The Daily Star, Hasib admitted that he had no jurisdiction to make such appointments. “I did it to calm a volatile situation, as the CBA issued an ultimatum for reappointment of the dismissed employees."
He ruled out the allegation of instigating the CBA members to put pressure on the authorities.
Mihir Kanti Majumder, secretary to the Rural Development and Cooperative Division, said the government has already requested the Anti-Corruption Commission to file corruption cases against the chairman, vice-chairman and directors of the company for making illegal appointments.
Referring to the irregularities in Milk Vita, he said a corrupt cartel has been exploiting the company for long.
He said though the dairy has not been able to produce enough milk, it went for setting up a Tk25 crore water bottling plant in Shibpur of Narsingdi. The plant is yet to start functioning.

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