Amid the ongoing cold wave, several thousand jute mill workers of Khulna and Jashore industrial belt continued their indefinite hunger strike for the second consecutive day yesterday, to press an 11-point demand including formation of national wage commission.
Under the banner of “CBA and Non-CBA Sangram Parishad”, the workers started an indefinite hunger strike at 3pm on Sunday on BIDC Road in Khulna city’s Khalishpur area.
Sahana Sarmin, president of Platinum Jute Employees’ Union, said, “Many workers, especially aged ones, have fallen ill due to starvation and dehydration in cold weather as they are staying on the street round the clock.”
“We will not leave until our demands are met,” she added.
Visiting several tents set up by the demonstrators on BIDC Road, this correspondent found may workers lying on carpets.
Monowara Begum, who has been working at Star Jute Mill for 39 years, was one of them. The 65-year-old took part in the movement despite suffering from respiratory problems.
“My husband, also a jute mill worker, died 20 years ago. We are yet to get all his arrears,” said Monowara.
“I earn only 2,150 taka per week,” said Monowara, adding, “The amount would be 4,000 taka if wage commission is implemented.”
“I have three unemployed children and I am the breadwinner of my family,” she added.
Another widow Morzina, a worker of Star Jute Mill, told The Daily Star, “My husband died five years ago. The authorities are yet to pay us the Tk 5 lakh that the mill owes him.”
The workers’ other demands include payment of regular wages, cancellation of public-private ownership, necessary fund for jute sector, insurance for families of deceased workers, provident fund and gratuity facilities for retired workers, and regularisation of temporary workers.
Murad Hossain, former president of Crescent Jute Mill Workers’ Union, said,
“The government repeatedly assured us of meeting our demands, prompting us to call off protests earlier.”
Boniz Uddin Miah, liaison officer of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) in Khulna, said in this situation they have nothing to do as the workers are not trusting the jute ministry or BJMC.
To press home the demands, around 31,000 workers and their family members have been rallying in front of the main gates of their respective mills -- Star, Platinum, Alim, Eastern, Daulatpur, and Khalishpur in Khulna; and Jashore Jute Industries and Carpeting Jute Mill in Jashore -- since December 24.