Workers of state-owned jute mills across the country withdrew their 96-hours strike last night after the Bangladesh Jute Mill Corporation (BJMC) agreed to some of their demands.
The decision came after a meeting between worker leaders and top BJMC officials at its office in the capital last night, following the first day of the second phase of work abstention.
“We withdrew our strike as BJMC officials assured that arrears will be cleared by April 25 and the National Wage Scale-2015 would be implemented by May 28,” Kamal Uddin, office secretary of CBA at Amin Jute Mills, told The Daily Star last night.
A press release issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment last night, however, only confirmed fixing workers' wages by May 17 and made no mention of implementing a new wage scale.
The release said the decisions were taken during a seven-hour long meeting between State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Munnujan Sufian and top BJMC, and worker leaders.
The decisions taken are: fixation of workers' wages by May 17 and issuance of wage slips by the very next day; clearing of all arrears by April 25; one-week's wages marking the occasion of Shab-e-barat and another round of talks between BJMC and workers' leaders on May 8.
Workers of state-owned jute mills in different districts earlier yesterday enforced a 96-hour work abstention from 8:00am to press home their nine-point demand, which included payment of outstanding wages.
Demonstrators yesterday blockaded roads and railways, and staged protests at several points in Khulna, Jashore and Chattogram, threatening to wage tougher movements if their demands were not met by April 18.
The workers' demands were: paying the gratuities and insurance claims of retired and deceased workers, reinstating workers terminated or suspended during past movements, payment of arrears and other financial benefits to current workers, implementation of the National Wage Scale-2015, appointing workers and making their jobs permanent as per the law, allocating funds for buying jute during jute season, undertaking a BMRE (balancing, modernisation, rehabilitation and expansion) scheme to increase the productivity of factories and removal of corrupt factory officials.
This was the second phase of work abstention by workers this month. Earlier on April 2, they observed a 72-hour work abstention.
Workers said they took to the streets as BJMC authorities had not pay heed to their demands despite repeated appeals.
In Khulna, agitating workers blockaded roads in Notunrasta intersection, Kobirbattala, Daulatpur BL college gate and Atra Industrial area on the Dhaka-Khulna highway for four hours from 8:00am.
Under the banner of the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) and Non-CBA Oikya Parishad, several thousand workers of nine state-owned jute mills of Khulna and Jashore joined the demonstration.
Jute workers of Daulatpur Jute Mill, Crescent Jute Mill, Platinum Jute Mill, Star Jute Mill, Aleem Jute Mill, Eastern Mill and Khalishpur Mill staged demonstrations.
Demonstrators set fire to tyres and chanted slogans that their demands be met. Commuters suffered as vehicular movement was halted during the demonstration.
Three trains -- Chitra Express, Rocket Express and Mohananda Express -- did not leave the Khulna Railway Station yesterday morning due to the blockade, said Manik Chandra Sarker, master of the station.
Over 33,087 workers have been working at nine state-owned jute mills on the Khulna-Jashore industrial belt.
Talking to The Daily Star, Mijanur Rahman, Platinum Jute Mills worker, said “I didn't get wages for 11 weeks. I owe Tk 13,000 to the grocery shop owner.”
Elsewhere in Chattogram, jute mill workers blocked streets halting vehicular movement.
The workers of Amin Jute Mills brought out a rally at 8:00am and blockaded Muradpur to Oxygen intersection road in the city. They burnt tyres and logs on the street, and chanted slogans.
The workers also halted a Chittagong University bound shuttle train, confirmed Md Ataur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Bayezid Police Station.
The demonstration continued till noon.
Meanwhile, the workers of Hafiz Jute mills at Sitakunda upazila staged a demonstration at the mill premises. Other jute mills workers abstained from work to express solidarity with the movement, said Arifur Rahman, a CBA leader at Amin Jute Mills.
(Our Chattogram and Khulna correspondents contributed to this report.)