Workers of eight state-owned jute mills in Khulna and Jashore industrial belt went on an indefinite hunger strike again from yesterday, to press home an 11-point demand including implementation of wage commission.
Thousands of jute workers and their family members took position with their belongings on BIDC Road of Khulna city and Atra industrial area of Khulna-Jashore highway.
Visiting at least five jute mills of Khalishpur and Daulatpur areas of Khulna city, over 7,000 workers of Star and Platinum jute mills were seen taking position under two big tents in front of Platinum mill gate on BIDC Road. Across the river Bhairab, around 3,000 workers of Star Jute Mill also took part in the hunger strike with other jute workers of Platinum Jute Mill.
Workers of Crescent Jute Mill erected a single tent on BIDC Road, where at least 3,000 were taking part in the hunger strike, most of them coming prepared with warm clothes and other belongings. Workers of Daulatpur and Khalishpur jute mills erected two separate tents in front of the respective mill gates.
Workers of Alim and Eastern jute mills sat near their mill gate in Atra industrial area by the Khulna-Jashore highway.
Workers said they did not remove the five tents on BIDC Road, that were erected on December 10 when the workers first went on a hunger strike.
Sukur Mollah, a jute workers of Star Jute Mill came to the spot around 2pm, along with his wife Jharna Begum and six-year-old son Shuvo.
“I have been working for 12 years as a temporary worker. I got only Tk 1,800 per week. How will I give feed my five-member family?” he questioned.
“I asked my wife and son not to come with me, but they did not listen,” Sukur said.
Another worker Ramjan Ali, 67, who was hospitalised during the previous phase of the hunger strike earlier this month, also joined yesterday’s hunger strike.
“I was hospitalised and received treatment from Khulna Medical College Hospital on December 12 during the hunger strike, but I am back here,” said Ramjan Ali.
“We proved our patience earlier, and we will follow systematic demonstration. As a part of it, we had started a hunger strike with the assistance and confidence of general jute workers,” said Sahana Sarmin, president of Platinum Jute Mill employees’ union.
“But the government did not take it seriously,” she added. “We are yet to be paid as per the wage commission, which was announced in 2015. The government is promising to consider all our demands, but we want a permanent solution.”
Some 30,000 workers of nine state-owned jute mills of the Khulna-Jashore industrial belt went on a hunger strike on December 10, which was postponed on December 13 upon assurances from State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian. One worker died and over 200 fell ill and had to be rushed to hospitals during the hunger strike.
Three meetings were held since then -- between labour leaders, Bangladesh Jute Mill Corporation and the jute and textile ministry. After the latest of those -- on Thursday -- failed to reach a consensus, the workers decided to go on hunger strike again, said Murad Hossain, former president of Crescent Jute Mill and joint convener of CBA and Non-CBA Sangram Parishad.
The workers’ demands include cancellation of public-private ownership, payment of provident fund gratuity for retired workers, regularising weekly wages and implementation of the wage commission, and payment of outstanding bills. They also demanded that the government buy jute products for other sectors.