Road transport workers go on strike today
Road transport workers will observe a 48-hour work abstention from 6:00am today to press home their eight-point demand mainly related to bringing amendments to the recently passed Road Transport Act-2018.
The brunt of the strike will be borne by people across the country, as the availability of public transport will be scarce from today.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation announced the strike yesterday at a rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital, attended by several thousand workers, including many from outside Dhaka. The area was blocked for around three hours from 3:00pm, resulting in long tailbacks on the roads.
At the rally, some leaders, including Sadikur Rahman Hiru, vice-president of the federation, threatened an indefinite strike if their demands are not met within two days.
The demands include making all offences under the Road Transport Act “bailable”, cancellation of the provision that allows a worker to be fined Tk 5 lakh for involvement in a road accident, changing the minimum educational qualification required to obtain driving licences from class-VIII to class-V, and ending harassment by police on roads.
However, speaking there, Osman Ali, general secretary of the federation, said, “The door for discussions is still open. We will withdraw our work abstention if our demands are met. We will not drive vehicles with non-bailable sections in the law.”
He added that in a country where a person can become a lawmaker without an educational certificate, they would not accept having to meet the educational requirement for getting a licence.
He alleged that the law had been enacted to stir up problems between the federation and its executive president Shajahan Khan, also the shipping minister, as some people in the government disliked him for his involvement with the federation.
Several transport leaders also criticised the media for “holding only drivers accountable” for accidents and “advocating” harsh punishment.
The federation, an umbrella organisation of the country's transport workers, has around 70 lakh members, its leaders said.
Workers of all motorised-vehicles, including buses, trucks, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, and human hauliers, are members of the federation, Osman told The Daily Star last night.
“So no such vehicle will ply the street for the next two days.”
When asked about indefinite the strike, Osman said, “We will go for 96-hour work abstention if our demands are not met even after this 48-hour strike,” adding, “However, that will not start immediately after the 48-hour programme. We will inform the media when we do [that].”
If their demands are still not met after the 96-hour work abstention, then they would go for indefinite strike, he said.
The federation, on October 12, had given October 27 as the deadline to meet their demands and threatened the two-day work abstention otherwise.
However, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader at a press conference on Tuesday said there was no question of amending the law within the tenure of the government as only a few days were left of the parliament's last session.
Obaidul, also general secretary of the ruling Awami League, said the law had been enacted after three years of discussions with transport leaders.
Earlier this month, Bangladesh Goods Transport Owners Workers United Association called an indefinite work abstention in Dhaka division over their seven-point demand, including bringing amendments to the Act.
However, three days into the absentation, the organisation however, postponed their programme until October 31 after the Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal assured its leaders of considering their demands.