Workers of nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna-Jashore industrial belt yesterday organised demonstrations and processions to press home their 11-point demand, which includes payment of arrears and implementation of a wage commission.
At 9am, thousands of workers gathered in front of their respective mills and chanted slogans. They also brought out a procession that paraded several city roads.
They also blocked roads and intersections at different points -- including Natun Rasta intersection, BIDC Road and BL College Road -- for one and a half hours till 11:30am. They also blocked Khulna-Jashore highway for some time.
The workers will observe a 24-hour work abstention from 6am today, said Shahana Sharmin, president of Platinum Jute Mill workers’ union.
In Jashore, workers of Jashore Jute Industry and Carpeting Jute Mills Ltd brought out a procession in Rajghat.
Abdul Hamid Sarder, convener of CBA and Non-CBA Sangram Parishad, told The Daily Star the jute sector is in turmoil due to some unplanned government policies.
“If the government takes pragmatic steps with workers’ interest in mind, it would be possible to run the sector properly,” he said.
“The government doesn’t allot money to purchase raw jute in the appropriate season. When the money is provided the season is already over. As a result, mill authorities have to purchase rotten raw jute and spend extra money,” he said.
Putul Khatun, a worker of Crescent Jute Mill, told The Daily Star that workers have to face the same problem every three to four months.
“I can’t provide food to my six-member family with my weekly wage of Tk 1,800,” Putul said.
Workers at Crescent, Platinum and Star jute mills are yet to receive their wages for 11 weeks. Khalishpur Jute Mill workers have not been paid for nine weeks, and other workers are also not being paid regularly and their salary is at least seven to eight weeks due.
Yesterday’s demonstration was part of their seven-day agitation programme announced on November 23 under the banner of “State-owned Jute Mill Collective Bargaining Association (CBA) and Non-CBA Sangram Parishad”.
Their 11-point demand includes cancellation of public-private ownership, properly providing pension and gratuity to retired workers, regularising weekly wages and implementation of the wage commission, payment of outstanding bills. They also demanded the government buy jute products for use in other sectors.
The government announced a wage board for jute workers in June, 2015, but it is yet to be implemented.
Over 31,000 workers (permanent and daily basis) have been working at nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna-Jashore industrial belt.