India: Jute Mill Workers To Go On Strike From May 14

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Above Photo: Jute mill workers, wielding wooden and bamboo sticks, protest blocking a road in Demra, Dhaka on Wednesday Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Parliamentary standing committee orders ministry to fix worker wages by May 17

The ongoing protest waged by workers of all state-run jute mills has taken a serious turn as they have decided on a wildcat strike from May 14, demanding immediate salary payment and wages in arrears. 

At a meeting in Dhaka on Wednesday, leaders of all Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA) and non-CBA units of the 22 state-run jute mills and three other jute product manufacturing factories, decided to simultaneously abstain from work starting May 14.

Following the meeting at the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) offices in Karwan Bazar, Arifur Rahman, publicity secretary of Patkal Sramik League, a pro-government platform of jute mill workers, announced the strike programme.

“Right now we have stopped production at nine mills in Khulna and two others in Dhaka. But we are all set to wage an even bigger protest by going on strike at the rest of the mills from May 14,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

Interestingly, jute mill workers in Khulna and Dhaka have stayed away from work on their own without being asked by the CBA or any other entity.

“But this time, the strike is going to take place in a coordinated manner at all the mills,” he said.

According to the agitated workers, the state-owned mills owe them wages for the last three months, and weekly hires are owed 11 weeks of wages in arrears.

They also demanded that the BJMC pay the money in compliance with the National Wage and Productivity Commission-2015.

When contacted, BJMC Chairman Shah Mohammad Nasim said the situation may improve soon after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returns home from the UK on May 10.

“There is always a notion among jute mill leaders that mill authorities do not care about workers. But the authorities concerned are always focused on resolving their issues,” he said.

“We have already contacted the finance division through the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, to allot the money needed to pay the arrears,” he said, adding that the arrears will be paid in line with the 2010 pay structure.

On Tuesday, the parliamentary standing committee on labour and employment asked the Labour and Employment Ministry to take necessary measures to give out wage slips to state-run jute mill workers, starting May 18.

The committee also ordered fixing their wages by May 17.

Blockades in Dhaka, Khulna for 3rd consecutive day

Jute mill workers in the capital and the port city of Khulna, demonstrated on Wednesday for a third consecutive day, blocking roads.

Workers of Latif Bawani Jute Mills and Karim Jute Mills in Demra blocked the road near the Demra Staff Quarter area around 8am on Wednesday. The blockade resulted in a major traffic gridlock in the area, causing locals immense suffering on the 2nd day of fasting in this month of Ramadan.

They lifted ther blockade after about eight hours, said Demra police station Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Iqbal Hyder.

Some 1000 agitating workers of the two jute mills put up a barricade on the road around the same area at 8am on Monday, demanding their arrears and due wages.

In Khulna it was even worse when workers from nine mills in Khulna and Jessore did the same for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.