Workers of state-owned jute mills from across the country yesterday announced fresh demonstrations, including road blocks next week, to press home their nine-point demand.
They will hold rallies at 26 mills of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) on Friday, march on Sunday, and block roads and railways from 8:00am-12:00pm for four days from next Monday, SM Kamruzzaman Chunnu, general secretary of Bangladesh Jute Mill Workers League (BJMWL), told The Daily Star.
Since March 29, jute mill workers have been demonstrating for payment of arrears and other demands.
The demands include implementing the National Wage Scale-2015, paying gratuities, addressing insurance claims of retired and deceased workers and reinstating those who lost jobs during previous demonstrations.
Worker leaders and union representatives from the jute mills made the decisions after a daylong meeting at BJMWL's office in the capital.
If the demands are not met, rallies will be held at the entrances of the mills on April 24 and roads and railways will be blocked for six hours on April 27-29, Chunnu said.
“Our workers are going hungry for days. But the authorities [BJMC] do not pay the dues...” Abu Daud Din Mohammad, president of Khalishpur Jute Mills Employees Union, told the Daily Star.
Experts suggest that the government provides funds immediately to clear arrears in order to put an end to the stalemate.
On Saturday, daylong negotiations between the representatives of agitating jute mill workers and BJMC officials bore no fruit.
Over 50 thousand permanent jute mill workers are not being paid their wages for the last nine weeks, said BJMC Secretary AKM Tareque.
BJMC officials say workers' wages are usually paid from the profit BJMC makes from export.
But the biggest jute products importer Sudan has recently postponed an order worth Tk 500 crore, Tareque said.
“Hopefully we will receive the money by exporting to Sudan soon,” he told The Daily Star.
The BJMC needs around Tk 13 crore every week to pay the workers, said workers' leader Chunnu.
It needs an additional Tk 424 crore to pay the gratuity and other dues.
Khondaker Golam Moazzam, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said BJMC often lent money from the government and its debt had reached Tk 3,206 crore in June 2018.
“The government should give funds to pay the arrears of the workers as a temporary solution,” he said.