Jute sector is getting tense over many demands. Jute mills workers in Khulna on last Monday announced a 72-hour strike from Tuesday to press home their demands for unpaid wages, and other benefits. A red-flag rally was held in the district where jute workers of several factories gathered and voiced their demands, media report said.
The rally was led by Jute Mills Workers League and Khalishpur Jute Mill collective bargaining agreement (CBA) president Md Murad Hossain. The workers and leaders expressed their frustration with BJMC (Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation) for not fulfilling their demands for the last four years.
Their demands include clearance of outstanding wages, formation of a wage commission, payments of outstanding gratuities and provident fund, and making transfer workers permanent. Four hours of road and railway blockade programs would be held on the planned strike days, from Tuesday to Thursday, they warned.
The workers and CBA leaders also said that if their demands are not met within the new deadline, they will meet at their central office in Dhaka on April 7 and come up with tougher programmes. Labour leader Zakir Hossain said: “Still there are six weeks of pending wages for the workers, and two months of salary for other employees of the mills.” He added: “To survive and compete in this competitive world, our demands must be met.
They should also be met in order to keep this sector alive.” Jute workers, as compared to other workers, do not easily get their demands met, according to Md Raju, a worker of Khulna Jute Mill. Having to run a family of eight, he expressed his frustration at the authorities not accepting their demands, despite threats of work abstention.
Not getting his wages for a long time is preventing him from providing food and education to his family, Raju said. Aziar Rahman, a worker of Platinum Jute Mill, expressed similar sentiments. He said he has failed to clear school fees of children for months. Other workers of Khalishpur said they receive wages lower than those who are contractually employed.
Earlier in March, workers of Khulna Jute Mill had observed four days of protests. Khulna and Jessore based state-owned jute mill workers have been protesting for a long time to realise their nine-point demands that include implementation of the recommendations made by the National Wages and Productivity Commission in 2015.
It also include giving retired workers provident and gratuity benefits, providing arrears of life insurance policies for deceased workers, reinstating terminated and suspended workers, appointing workers and making their jobs permanent as per the law, allocating funds for buying jute during the jute season, and undertaking a BMRE (balancing, modernization, rehabilitation and expansion) scheme to increase the productivity of factories.