Road Transport Sector: 1 feud, 2 strikes, same demands
A feud between two major factions of road transport owners and workers has led to calling of two separate strikes of goods-laden vehicles in the span of a week.
The first spell of a 72-hour strike started yesterday, halting the operation of goods transportation from major sea and land ports, while a 48-hour strike would start from Monday.
Although their demands are almost the same, they still called "work abstention" from different platforms just because they are locked in a long-standing conflict.
One faction is backed by two major platforms in the road transport sector while the other is dominated by transport agencies and some truckers' associations.
On August 25, Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van, Tank Lorry, Prime Mover Owners and Workers' Coordination Council called a 48-hour work abstention from September 27 to press home their 10-point demand. Their demands include withdrawing murder cases against drivers under section 302 of the penal code for road accidents, solving driving licence-related complexities, withdrawing the "additional" advance income tax and allowing them to update their vehicles' documents without having to pay any fine amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This faction is backed by Shajahan Khan-led Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation and Moshiur Rahman Ranga-led Bangladesh Road Transport Owner Association.
On August 28, its rival group, made up of Bangladesh Covered-Van Truck Prime Mover Goods Transport Owners Association and Bangladesh Truck Drivers Workers Federation, called a 72-hour work abstention from yesterday to press home their 15-point demand. Their demands include withdrawing "additional" income tax, giving "heavy licences" to those driving heavy vehicles directly (currently, a driver has to get light licence and then licence for medium vehicles to get one for heavy vehicles), and changes in the Road Transport Act-2018.
LONG-STANDING FEUD EXPOSED AGAIN
The Bangladesh Road Transport Workers' Federation, an umbrella organisation of more than 200 unions of road transport workers across the country, has had a strong grip over the workers' unions for a long time.
On the other hand, the owners' association is one of the two major platforms of transport owners across the country, with its strong hold over transport owners in the capital.
Both the federation and the association have members from the associations of passengers and goods-laden vehicles, and these organisations often represent the sector in negotiations with the government.
But a section of leaders – from both owners' and workers' bodies -- of goods-laden vehicles have been trying to form a separate platform, sources said.
This section is led by Mokbul Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Covered-Van Truck Prime Mover Goods Transport Owners Association, and Talukder Mohammed Monir, president of a truckers' union based at Dhaka's Tejgaon.
The division surfaced after the Road Transport Act-2018 was passed at the Jatiya Sangsad in September 2018.
In October 2018, Bangladesh Truck, Covered-van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council, led by Mokbul Ahmed as its convener, had called a 48-hour strike demanding changes in the act.
Tajul Islam, president of Bangladesh Inter-District Truck Drivers Union and a vice president of the federation, was the member-secretary of the Unity Council, and Monir was joint convener.
At that time, leaders of the federation and the association did not want to go for any protests; rather they wanted to go for negotiations with the government for bringing changes in the act.
In November 2019, when the government was starting to implement the act, the Mokbul-led faction called a separate strike against the law.
The feud once again came to the fore last month when the two factions called strikes on separate dates to press home the same demands.
Tajul later left the Mokbul-led faction and became member-secretary of the other one that called a strike on September 27 and 28.
Osman Ali, general secretary of the federation, alleged the platform led by Mokbul is actually working for the government.
"They called the strike after we announced our work abstention to foil our programme," he told The Daily Start last night.
He added that Monir was involved with the federation earlier but his membership was suspended due to his allegiance with the transport agency's organisation.
Mokbul said that when the federation and the association continued their absolute sway over both the passenger and goods-laden vehicles' associations, they began working to form a separate platform for the unions of goods-laden vehicles.
He said they have called the strike to press home their demands, and if their demands are met the other faction would not have to enforce their strike.