Workers yesterday called an indefinite strike at all state-owned jute mills from May 13 to realise their demands, including the one for arrears.
They will also block roads and railways across the country for an indefinite period from the same day.
Thousands of workers demonstrated in Khulna and in the capital’s Demra for a third straight day yesterday, blocking roads and railways for hours in different parts of the two industrial belts. Khulna and Demra are home to 11 state-run jute mills.
Some 70,000 workers are employed in the 23 jute and three non-jute mills under the state-run Bangladesh Jute Mill Corporation (BJMC). Most jute mills workers have not been paid for six to 13 weeks.
“We will go for a general strike at all state-owned jute mills from May 13,” Motahar Uddin, president of Bangladesh Jute Mills Sramik League, told The Daily Star.
As part of the programme, no workers will join work and they will block roads and railways across the country from 4:00pm to 7:00pm every day for an indefinite period, he said after a meeting of labour leaders at the BJMC office in the capital yesterday.
In the meantime, the ongoing street protest, which began on Monday, will continue, he added.
Workers said that they had to return to the streets as their arrears were not paid even two weeks after the expiry of a deadline set by the BJMC itself.
Earlier on April 15, labour leaders held a meeting with the BJMC chairman and jute ministry officials at the BJMC office in the wake of a similar protest over their nine-point demand.
At the meeting, officials said all dues would be cleared by April 25.
Their other demands include implementation of the Wage Commission of 2015, payment of gratuities and provident funds of retired workers, and appointment of workers and making their jobs permanent as per the law.
Contacted, BJMC Chairman Shah Mohammad Nasim said they were trying to meet the workers’ demands.
“Things are on right track. We have written to the government, asking for money.
“Production at mills is being hampered because of the ongoing protest, which will ultimately affect the workers,” he added.
An additional secretary of the jute and textile ministry also said they sought allocations from the finance ministry to clear the workers’ dues.
“We will be able to pay them if we get the money,” he told The Daily Star last night, requesting anonymity.
In Demra, workers blocked the Staff Quarter intersection, Demra-Rampura road and Demra-Narayanganj road, creating tailbacks.
Hundreds of workers of Latif Bawany Jute Mills and Karim Jute Mills took position on the streets at 6:00am and their protest continued till 5:00pm.
Some workers also set fire to tree logs and bamboo sticks on the road, witnesses said.
Vehicles were seen taking alternative routes to avoid congestion.
Mohammad Ali, CBA President of Latif Bawany Jute Mills, said workers abstained from work and held a peaceful protest.
At Latif Bawany, six weeks’ wages and two months’ salaries are due, he said.
In Khulna, workers of all the nine state-owned jute mills blocked Dhaka-Khulna highway at Notunrasta intersection from 4:00pm to 7:00pm.
No workers of Daulatpur Jute Mills, Khalishpur Jute Mills, Star Jute Mills, Crescent Jute Mills and Platinum Jute Mills joined work.
Workers also blocked the rail lines, forcing at least three trains to remain stranded for hours, officials said.
“It is inhuman to not pay the workers whose only source of money is wages. The government should buy poison for us,” said Putul Begum, a worker of Crescent Jute Mills.