Immediate response to jute mill workers’ demand needed
WORKERS of different state-owned jute mills have yet again taken to the street. On Sunday, they blocked highways in Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi on Sunday to press home their 11-point demand, including immediate payment of arrears. According to a New Age report on Monday, workers of eight jute mills in Chittagong laid siege to the Dhaka-Chittagong highway near Baro Awlia of Sitakunda upazila at 10:00am for an hour, while workers of seven jute mills in Khulna blocked the Khulna-Jessore highway and that of Rajshahi Jute Mills demonstrated on the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway. As jute mill worker leaders speaking at the programmes pointed out, there is a tripartite agreement according to which the payment of their arrears was to be completed in four instalments. Regrettably, however, the jute mill authorities have stopped the payment after paying just two instalments. As a result, around 50 to 60 thousand workers at different jute mills, where payment of monthly salary of workers hardly occur on time, have to face a miserable condition.
The jute sector as a whole, which used to be a key exporting sector, has not been in good shape for decades now. It is an established fact that various factors, especially the huge decline in the demand for the product on international market in recent decades and rampant mismanagement and irregularities that gripped the state-owned jute industries for long, have played the key role in leading the sector to such a dismal situation. Meanwhile, blaming such a situation and following the prescriptions issued by different international lending agencies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, successive governments pursued wholesale closure or disinvestment policies when it came to dealing with jute industries. There are reasons to believe that the Awami League-led government is yet to come out of those policies regardless of its oft-repeated pledges to take steps to bring back the golden age of the golden fibre. It is then little wonder that the state-owned jute mills still fail to regularly pay their workers and employees salaries and benefits.
Be that as it may, the government needs to realise that having practically starved for days, jute mill workers cannot concentrate on their stipulated duties, a situation that certainly hinders the operation of the mills further. Above all, before the condition in and around the jute mills worsens further due to workers vowing to go for tougher programmes unless their demands are met soon, the incumbents need to take effective measures to address the woes afflicting the mills.
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