The demonstration for arrears by state-owned jute mill workers turned violent once again as agitators vandalised at least 50 vehicles while blocking roads in the capital’s Demra yesterday, police said.
The workers, who said their arrears of up to three months were due, however, denied their involvement in any vandalism.
They said they had to take to the streets as their arrears were not paid even 12 days after the end of a deadline promised by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC).
A joint meeting on April 15 among jute mill leaders, CBA (Collective Bargaining Agent), non-CBA leaders, BJMC chairman, and officials of the labour ministry had decided to clear all arrears of workers within April 25.
Earlier on the last day of a three-day countrywide work stoppage of different state-owned jute mills workers on April 4, police and protesters clashed in Khulna, leaving 16 people injured.
Yesterday, workers of 12 jute mills abstained from work in Dhaka, Chattogram and Khulna, demanding arrears. The move came after workers of another state-owned jute mills -- Platinum Jute Mills -- began an indefinite work stoppage in Khulna on Sunday evening over the same demand.
Around 1,200 workers of Latif Bawany Jute Mills and Karim Jute Mills took to the streets of Demra, and Rampura-Demra and Demra-Narayanganj roads after 9:00am yesterday, police said.
Armed with iron rods and bamboo sticks, the workers vandalised at least 50 vehicles, said Sub-Inspector Mohammad Hanif, duty officer of Demra Police Station.
The workers descended on the streets as they did not get their arrears, he said, quoting demonstrators.
This led to huge traffic congestion in the area. Many people were seen getting off vehicles and walking to their destinations, the SI added.
Talking to The Daily Star, Siddique Mia, a human haulier driver, said he saw many people swooping on vehicles with iron rods and bamboo sticks around 9:00am in Demra area.
Contacted, Abdul Hossain, former general sectary, CBA, Karim Jute Mills, said workers had nothing to do with the violence. “We are observing a peaceful demonstration for our dues. It will continue until 10:00pm today,” he said last night.
In Khulna, some 35,000 workers of nine state-owned jute mills in the Khulna-Jashore industrial belt have been observing work stoppage since Sunday night.
The jute mills are -- Daulatpur Jute Mills, Khalishpur Jute Mills, Crescent Jute Mills, Platinum Jute Mills, Star Jute Mills, Aleem Jute Mills, Eastern Jute Mills, JJI Jashore Jute Industry and Carpeting Jute Mills.
Some protesters from the jute mills served Khichuri (hotchpotch) to other demonstrators, who did not get arrears of up to four months, and their family members.
Around 1:00pm, our correspondent visited Platinum, Star, Khalishpur, Daulatpur and Crescent jute mills and saw hundreds of workers collecting rice, vegetables and other items to prepare food.
“I should get arrears of over eight weeks,” one of the protesters said.
“There are around 1,950 workers like me in my mill. If we don’t get the money, how can we run our families with our meagre income?” he asked.
Talking to this newspaper in front of Khalishpur Jute Mills, another worker said, “I’m tired of taking loans from my relatives. I need to pay them back.”
Shawon Mahamud, general manager of Star Jute Mills, said they informed the BJMC authorities about the strike, but were yet to receive any response.
In Chattogram city, workers at Amin Jute Mills observed work stoppage for seven hours yesterday as their arrears were not paid within the deadline promised by the BJMC.
The protesters did not work between 8:00pm and 10:00pm on Sunday night and abstained from work yesterday.
They took position in front of the mill and chanted slogans against the authorities.
As the authorities paid the workers’ arrears of one week by 11:00am and assured to pay the rest within a week, the workers withdrew the strike, said Kamal Uddin, office secretary of Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) at the mill.
(Our correspondents from Khulna and Chattogram contributed to the report)