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Jute workers’ demo: Protesters block roads, railways

  • Published at 10:46 am April 2nd, 2019
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Jute mills workers in Khulna shut down the Khalishpur new road intersection on the first day of their 72-day strike on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

The 4-hour blockade was enforced as part of a 72-hour strike demanding unpaid wages

Jute mill workers had blocked off railway tracks and highways across the country, during a four-hour shutdown to press home their demands for unpaid wages and other benefits.

The shutdown of highways and railways was enforced by workers of nine state-owned jute mills across Khulna and Jessore—and several other districts across Bangladesh, such as jute mills in Rajshahi and Chittagong—as part of a 72-hour strike that began at 6am on Tuesday.

The protesters are observing the strike demanding a wage commission, the immediate payment of due gratuities, and a provident fund.

Confirming the matter to the Dhaka Tribune, Platinum Jute Mill workers’ leader Khalilur Rahman, from Khulna, said: “The three-day strike launched at 6am on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the 4-hour shutdown on highways and railways began at 8am the same day.”

The Jute Mills Workers League, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and non-CBA Oikya Parishad are observing the demonstration.

In Khulna and Jessore, the blockade ended at 12pm, but Khulna Railway Station Master Manik Chandra said the railway is checking the tracks for signs of damage. The trains resumed operation at 1:20pm.

Workers enforced the blockade in key areas of the region, such as: Khalishpur New Road intersection in Khulna, in front of Alim Jute Mill in Atra, at Rajghat in Jessore, and at parts of the Khulna-Jessore highway from 8am to 12pm on Tuesday.

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.

Traffic in the region has returned to normal, confirmed the Katakhali acting officer-in-charge Nibaron Chandra Barman. 

In Chittagong, workers blocked off the Hathazari-Muradpur road, in front of Amin Jute Mill, and stopped several trains—including the Chittagong University shuttle train—from leaving the station, confirmed Biozid Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ataur Rahman.

Highway and railway traffic returned to normal after the 4-hour shutdown ended at 12pm.

Four years later

Protesting jute mill workers in Khulna said even after four years, the authorities concerned have yet take steps to realize workers’ demands, such as the long-awaited Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) wage commission.

 They added that workers have yet to get their due wages, provident funds, and permanent employment of transferred workers; so, this demonstration was launched to press home their demands.

Jute mills workers bring out a procession during their three-day strike in Khulna and Jessore on April 2, 2019 |Dhaka Tribune

Responding to a query, Jute mill workers’ CBA and non-CBA Oikya Parishad General Secretary Jakir Hossain said: “Jute mills in Khulna region are yet to be paid six week's-worth of wages to their workers, and two month's-worth of wages to their staff.

“Production in those jute mills has dropped sharply, due to financial issues. BJMC promised to implement a wage commission at state-owned jute mills by March 28, but the promise is yet to become a reality.”

The workers’ leader added that the demonstration has been launched to press home the workers’ demands.

Earlier on Monday, jute mill workers in Khulna announced a 72-hour strike 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.

The rally was led by the 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  for not fulfilling their demands for the last four years.