We are worried about the escalation of violence during a three-day country-wide work abstention of different state-owned jute mills that left 16 people injured when clashes ensued between workers and police. Most of the demands of the workers seem to be reasonable. They include clearing all arrears, implementing the National Wage Scale-2015, clearing payments related to gratuities and insurance claims of retired and deceased workers and reinstating those workers who lost jobs during previous demonstrations. If the demands are legitimate and it seems they are, why did the workers have to resort to such desperate measures?
While we cannot condone the attacks on police, blocking of roads and train routes, stopping trains from going to their destination, we cannot help but ask why the authorities especially the BJMC (Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation) did not meet with the workers' representatives earlier and resolve the issues amicably. According to news reports the BJMC has invited the protesting workers for a meeting on their demands on Saturday. After reaching a decision the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) and non-CBA Oikya Parishad, both of which represent the protesting workers, will meet with CBA leaders of 26 state-owned jute mills. Why couldn't all this have happened before things got out of hand?
It is no secret that the state-owned jute mills are not running very efficiently and little has been done to remove the bottlenecks which have resulted in these mills not paying the workers their dues. But this does not absolve the authorities from addressing the woes of the workers. There is no reason why workers have to take such extreme measures for extracting what is due to them. The filing of around 250 cases against protesting workers will rather aggravate the situation than defusing it. The government must come up with a sustainable solution to avoid further spiralling of this crisis.