Jute mill workers’ demonstration for arrears and better wages entered its 11th day yesterday, but no one from the authorities contacted them till last night to resolve the crisis.
In such a situation, workers’ leaders have threatened to go for tougher movements if their demands are not met by Saturday.
Like the previous days, agitated workers blocked roads and railways in Khulna and Jashore yesterday, which was also the third day of an indefinite strike at the state-owned jute mills across the country.
In Khulna, thousands of workers from nine state-owned jute mills blocked the Dhaka-Khulna highway in Kabirbattala, Natunrasta Mor, Daulatpur, Atra Industrial areas and railway tracks in Notunrasta and Rajkhat from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. It caused suffering to passengers.
Besides, workers from Daulatpur, Khalishpur, Crescent, Platinum, and Star jute mills gathered in front of the main entrances to their factories. They brought out processions from BIDC road to Natunrasta intersection of Khulna city.
Later, they sat on roads in Kabirbattala and Daulatpur areas and chanted slogans demanding that authorities pay their arrears immediately.
Workers from Alim and Eastern jute mills blocked the Dhaka-Khulna highway in Khulna’s Atra industrial area for hours.
In Jashore, workers gathered in Rajghat area and blocked traffic on the Khulna-Dhaka highway. The protesters were mostly workers from the Jashore Jute Industry and Carpeting Jute Mills Ltd.
The demonstration, which began in Khulna on May 5, caused delays in train schedules.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Manik Chanda Sarker, station manager of Khulna Railway Station, said all the Khulna-bound trains remained stranded in different areas of Jashore and Rajkhat for hours yesterday.
At a demonstration in Khulna city’s Natunrasta Mor, Nur Islam, president of a platform of workers at Platinum Jute Mill, alleged that a conspiracy was underway to hand over the jute mills to the private sector.
“If taken, it will be a vindictive move,” he said, adding that workers should not take responsibilities for losses caused by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation. The state-owned mills are under the BJMC.
“We will wait till Saturday. If our demands are not met by then, we will declare tougher protests,” he said.
Sohrab Hossain, secretary of a workers’ platform of Crescent Jute Mill, also said they were waiting till Saturday for a commitment that their dues would be paid.
“Otherwise, we won’t have any option other than staging tougher protests,” he said last night, adding, “No one from the government has contacted us yet to assure that our demands will be realised.”
Several other leaders echoed his statements.
Meanwhile, many workers alleged that they were threatened by ruling party men not to join the protests. The Daily Star talked to at least 10 workers of different mills in Khulna and Jashore.
“Besides, we are being pressurised by some CBA [Collective Bargaining Agent] leaders and ruling party men,” said one worker, preferring anonymity.
On September 7, 2015, the cabinet approved the eighth national pay scale which came into effect from July that year. The scale has been implemented in almost all government offices and corporations.
But some 60,000 workers of the 22 state-run jute mills are still waiting for the scale to be implemented. However, all officials and employees under the jute ministry, including those of BJMC, are drawing their salaries under the new scale.
On top of this, the agitating workers have not been paid for six to 12 weeks. Officials and employees of the mills have also not been getting their salaries for two to four months.