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Jute mill workers threaten intensified movement

Abdur Rahman Khan
Workers of the state-owned Jute mills have vowed to wage a tougher movement, indefinitely, if their nine-point demand is not met by the authorities concerned.
Jute Mill Workers’ League President Sardar Motahar Uddin sounded the warning while addressing the protesters on the final day of the 72-hours strike in Khulna on Thursday.
“We [workers’ leaders] have a scheduled meeting with Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation [BJMC] next Saturday. I am optimistic that our nine-point demand will be accepted by the BJMC” Motahar told the workers rally
“However, if our demands are not accepted, we [workers’ leaders] will hold a meeting next Sunday and announced plans for an indefinite movement until the fulfillment of our nine point demand. Please be ready to respond to our call for movement.”
Platinum Jute Mills workers’ leader Khalilur Rahman, who is also the joint convener at the central committee of CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad, said the leaders had agreed to continue with the demonstration as the government had not agreed to meet all nine of their demands.
The shutdown is being enforced by workers of state-owned jute mills across Khulna, Jessore, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Dhaka and Norshingdi and several other districts on Thursday—as part of the final day of the 72-hour strike, which began on Tuesday.
The protesters are observing the strike demanding a wage commission, immediate payment of due gratuities and provident fund. The strike is scheduled to end at 6am on Friday.
Meanwhile, least 20 people were injured in a clash between police and state-owned jute mill workers in Khulna on Thursday morning amid 72-hour strike of the workers.
A chase and counter-chase occurred between police and the workers at Natun Rasta intersection in the morning. Later, the workers vandalised a police box at the intersection that ensued the clash, leaving 20 injured.
Additional deputy police commissioner of Khulna Metropolitan Police, Moniruzzaman Mithu said the agitated workers attacked the police box around 9:00am.
Police chased them to disperse the unruly workers. In retaliation, they hurled brickbats, creating panic in the area.
Protesters block roads, railways
Jute mill workers blocked off railway tracks and highways across the country as they began their three-day strike on Tuesday.
The blockades created traffic congestion, causing inconvenience to commuters and travellers – especially people going to work and school.
Workers of two jute mills in Demra, Dhaka blocked a road while observing the 72-hour strike.
The workers of Latif Bawani Jute Mills and Karim Jute Mills blocked the road near the Demra Staff Quarter area around 8:30am, for more than five hours.
Workers of jute mills in Khulna and Jessore blocked the highways and railways down in the two districts at 8am and continued till 12pm, enforcing it in the key areas of the region, including the Khalishpur New Road intersection in Khulna, in front of Alim Jute Mills in Atra, in Rajghat in Jessore, and in parts of the Khulna-Jessore highway.
In Rajshahi, jute mill workers led a procession in the Katakhali area of the Rajshahi-Dhaka highway around 10:30am. The procession completely shut down the highway, but later, police arrived and removed the demonstrators peacefully.
In Chittagong, workers blocked off the Hathazari-Muradpur road, in front of Amin Jute Mills, and stopped several trains, including the Chittagong University shuttle train, from leaving the station, Bayezid police station OC Ataur Rahman confirmed.
In Narsingdi, workers of UMC Jute Mills and Bangladesh Jute Mills in Ghorashal brought out processions and staged demonstrations in front of the factories to press home their demands.
Four years of frustration
On the first day of their three-day strike on Tuesday, jute mill workers in Khulna said the authorities concerned had not taken steps to realize their demands, at the centre of which is the jute mill wage commission, formulated four years ago.
They added that workers have yet to get their due wages, provident fund and permanent employment of transferred workers, which is why they launched the fresh protest.
“Jute mills in the Khulna region have yet to pay six weeks’ worth of wages to their workers, and two months’ worth of wages to their staff,” said Jakir Hossain, general secretary of the combined central committee of jute mill workers’ CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad.
“Production in these jute mills dropped sharply due to financial issues. The BJMC promised to implement the wage commission at the state-owned jute mills by March 28, but it has yet to become a reality,” Jakir told the Dhaka Tribune.
The workers’ leader added that they had decided on Monday to launch the strike the next day to press home the workers’ demands.
A red-flag rally was held in the district where jute workers of several factories gathered and voiced their demands.
BJMC agrees to pay
The Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) has agreed to implement the wage commission long demanded by the workers of the state-owned jute mills, hours after the workers launched a fresh strike on Tuesday to press home their demands.
The jute mill authority, which operates under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, issued a letter to the jute mills to implement the wage commission, asking them to complete the salary fixation procedure in accordance with the wage commission recommendations.
The letter came nearly six hours after workers from nine state-owned mills in Khulna and Jessore launched a 72-hour protest at 6am on Tuesday. Workers of state-owned jute mills in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Narsingdi also joined in the demonstration.
Despite the BJMC’s move, the protesters have decided to continue with their strike, citing that the BJMC had yet to take initiatives to fulfil all nine of their demands.

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