Strike for passenger vessels withdrawn
Bangladesh Water Transport Workers Federation (BWTWF) last night withdrew its strike for only passenger vessels.
However, the strike will remain in force for vessels carrying goods.
Shah Alam Bhuiyan, president of the BWTWF, said they lifted the strike considering the sufferings of the HSC examinees in the country.
“We are observing an indefinite strike to press home our 15-point demands. But at the same time, HSC examination is going on in the country. Considering the sufferings of the HSC applicants, we have withdrawn the strike for passenger vessels plying the Dhaka-Barisal route,” he said.
The strike will remain in force for other vessels until the demands of the water transport workers are met, he added.
Operation of vessels has been suspended across the country since the early hours of Thursday.
The government has meanwhile convened a tripartite meeting today with the representatives of vessel owners and workers to end the deadlock.
The BWTWF called the strike to press home its 15-point demands, including a minimum monthly wage of Tk 10,000 for workers and increase in overtime pay, festival bonuses and other benefits.
During a visit to the capital's Sadarghat terminal yesterday, it was seen that many passengers were waiting for vessels to reach their respective destinations.
Sathi Akhter told The Daily Star at noon yesterday, "I have been waiting since morning to go to Chandpur. It is uncertain when we can go home."
Passengers were left in a confused state as no-one could ensure them about launches, which will leave the terminal. Low-income group people suffered the most as they could not afford alternative vehicles. Many were seen lying on the floor of the terminal.
Md Faruk, a mason, said, "I will go to my village home in Barguna. It will cost me Tk 400. If I take alternative transport, it will take at least Tk 1,000. I cannot spend that much."
However, a number of passenger launches defied the strike and left Dhaka yesterday.
Seventeen launches left the terminal for different destinations as of 9:00pm, said Mohammad Shahidullah, port officer of Sadarghat.
A launch named Moyur-1 of Dhaka-Barisal was seen leaving the terminal around 1:30pm.
Abdus Salam, supervisor of the launch, said, "Our workers get adequate salary. So they are not in strike."
Golam Kibria Tipu, a launch owner, claimed workers of goods-carrying vessels are mainly observing the strike.
The government has convened a meeting with vessel owners and workers at the Department of Labour at 4:30pm today.
Officials of the ministries of shipping, and labour and employment and representatives of vessel owners and workers are likely to attend the meeting.
Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, general secretary of the BWTWF, said, “We will not lift the strike until our demands are met.”
Mahbub Uddin Ahmed Bir Bikram, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport (passenger carriers) Association, said, “We hope to reach a solution through negotiations tomorrow [today].”
Passengers, patients, workers and businesspeople are the worst victims of the strike, reports our Jhalokathi correspondent.
“I could not buy food for my family as I had no work at the terminal,” said Nur Alam, a load and unload worker of Jhalokathi Launch Ghat.
“The salt industries in Jhalokathi have thousands of workers, who will be jobless if the strike continues two or three days more. The industries are fully dependent on water communications,” said Mahabub Hossen, president of Jhalokathi Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Engine boats and trawlers carrying passengers were charging additional fares in the southern region taking advantage of the launch strike, reports our Barisal correspondent.
Buses were also overcrowded and tickets were not available for long route destinations.