Jute mill workers continue fast-unto-death, 150 fall sick

Over 150 workers of state-owned jute mills fell sick as they continued their hunger strike on Wednesday for the second day to press their 11-point demand, including payment of all their arrears and wage hike.

State-owned jute mill workers along with their dependants, under the banner of CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad, began the hunger strike on Tuesday.

Until 600pm on Wednesday, at least 150 workers of nine mills in Khulna region, 10 in a jute mill at Dhaka region and three others in a mill at Chattogram region fell sick during observing strikes in their mills under the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, reports received from the divisional cities said.

Reports said that the agitators were passing time on their demonstration grounds by hearing speeches of their leaders and singing songs composed by themselves on their woes they have been facing and laying on their sleepless pillows under tents braving cold.

Different socio-cultural and political organisations and their leaders were expressing solidarity with their demands.

Their demands include implementation of the National Wage and Productivity Commission Award 2015, payment of all arrear weekly wages, adequate budgetary allocation for the jute sector and buying adequate jute on season, payment of the outstanding provident fund and gratuity to retired workers and settlement of insurance benefits to the families of the deceased workers, recruitment of more workers, regularisation of temporary workers, reinstatement of sacked workers, and balancing, modernising, rehabilitating and expanding the jute mills for better productivity.

Meanwhile, Left Democratic Alliance held a rally at Picture Palace crossing in the Khulna city and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh staged a demonstration in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka in the afternoon extending their support to the demands of the agitating jute mills workers and urging the government to meet the 11-point demands.

Ganosamhati Andolan in a statement expressed solidarity with the workers and urged the government for immediate actions to resolve the crisis of the workers. 

Our correspondent in Khulna reported that at least 150 workers of nine mills of Khulna-Jashore region fell sick on the second day as several thousand workers of the mills continued their fast unto death for the second day.

Khalishpur Jute Mills, Star Jute Mills, Daulatpur Jute Mills, Crescent Jute Mills and Platinum Jubilee Jute Mills began fast unto death under tents on BIDC Road, also in front the mill gates, while workers of Estarn Jute Mills and Alim Jute Mills at Atra in Khulna and Carpeting Jute Mills and Jashore Jute industries Limited in Jashore are also demonstrating at their respective mill gates.

Speakers said they held demonstrations and staged agitations to press their demands, but as the government did not respond to the demands, they had no way but to go on hunger strike.

Treasurer of the Platinum Jubilee Jute Mills Employees Union Md Ballal Hossain said that his mills’ production capacity had to produce 50 tonnes of products par day but they were now producing only 10 tonnes for jute crisis.

The Employees’ Union president Shahana Sharmin said that at least 20 of her co-workers were admitted to Khulna Medical College Hospital and at least 50 workers of her mill were administered intravenous saline under their tent at the BIDC Road of Khalishpur until 300pm.

Alim Jute Mills Employees’ Union president Md Saiful Islam Litu said that at least 50 workers of Alim and Estarn Jute Mills fell sick and two of them were admitted to KMCH and 15 others to Phultala Upazila Health Complex.

UMC Jute Mills Employees Union president Shafiqul Islam Molla said that at least 10 workers fell sick on Wednesday.

Our staff correspondent in Chattogram, quoting Amin Jute Mills Employees’ Union joint-secretary Kabir Hossain, reported that three workers fell sick on the day and two of them were admitted to Chattogram Medical College Hospital until 600pm.