Water transport workers yesterday threatened to go on an indefinite strike from Wednesday to press home their 15-point demand including wage hike.
Their leaders allege vessel owners and the government agencies concerned have paid no heed to their demands despite repeated requests. They now have no alternative to enforcing a work abstention programme as the demands were not fulfilled, the leaders add.
The announcement came at a press conference held at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity yesterday.
"We do not want to put the authorities in an embarrassing situation. Let's talk to solve the problems. Otherwise, the government and the vessel owners will be responsible for the situation," said Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, general secretary of Bangladesh Noujan Shramik Federation.
"The workers will be forced to wage a movement if the demands were not met through discussion," Ashiqul told the news briefing.
Wages of water transport workers was last hiked in 2013. Currently, their minimum wage is Tk 4,150, instead of which they are demanding Tk 10,000.
The government bodies concerned and the vessel owners are hopeful that a solution will come at a tripartite meeting to be held within a day or two.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said he had directed the leaders and officials of all the stakeholders to resolve the issue through discussion.
"We have already held a meeting with the owners and workers today [Sunday]. We have requested the officials of the labour directorate, owners and workers' union to sit for discussion within a day or two to solve the problem," said Commodore Mohammad Mozammel Haque, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
Badiuzzaman Badal, senior vice-chairman of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers) Association, said, "We are trying to solve the problem. But it is very difficult for us to increase wages if the government does not increase fares."
There are around 2 lakh water transport workers in the country, according to an estimation of the workers' federation.
The workers' other demands include ensuring security of on-duty workers, preventing extortion, issuance of appointment letters, and maintaining navigability of waterways.