Jute mill workers protest golden-handshake move


Following the government announcement on golden handshake or voluntary retirement of workers of state-owned jute mills, workers in and outside of the capital city have started protesting the move.

Meanwhile, labor leaders have called on the government to back down from its decision to close the jute mills on humanitarian grounds considering the ongoing virus crisis.

At the same time, they are also planning a big movement against the government decision. In continuation, immediately after the announcement, the jute mills workers in Dhaka, Chattogram, and Khulna have started to demonstrate.

Bangladesh state-owned jute mills CBA, Non-CBA Sangram Parishad convener Sarder Abdul Hamid said, “Among our demands, we urge the government to instal new modern machines, allocate money for jute purchases and continue smooth production.”
“If our demand is not fulfilled, we will go on a hunger strike with our families from Wednesday,” he added.

It is to be noted, the government has made the decision to go for a golden handshake, a voluntary retirement scheme, for around 25,000 jute workers to cope with losses, and modernize those mills in congruity with local and international demands.

However, before sending them to voluntary retirement, the government will pay all their due salaries, provident fund, gratuity and others.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed to pay all the money in one check so that the outgoing workers do not face any financial difficulties during this period.

In this regard, Textiles and Jute Minister, Golam Dastagir Gazi said, all dues of retired workers (8954) since 2014, all due salaries of current workers (24,886), provident fund, gratuity and at maximum 27 percent rate of gratuity will be paid cent percent all together as retirement facilities and around Taka 5,000 crore will be provided from the government budget to this end.

He was speaking as chief guest at an online media briefing on a review of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) activities.
It is to be noted, in 48 years of jute mills operations, the mills earned profit only four times, losses were incurred for the remaining 44 years. According to the BJMC, the estimated loss was Tk 10,674 crore. The financial loss since 2013 alone is Tk 2,654 crore. The arrears of the workers including pension is Tk 1030 crore. The amount of jute purchase, services, bank loan and loan to the government is Tk 1668 crore.

In this context, the minister said, “Due to high production cost, state-owned jute mills are not commercially viable. Initiatives will be taken to run the mills on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or joint venture or G to G or lease model under the control of the government”.

Labor leader Shahidullah Chowdhury told journalists, “We have presented the rationale of the demand to the concerned. Six months ago, we gave a reform plan on how to make the jute industry profitable. We are again requesting that the matter should be reconsidered in the light of our submitted plan”.

However, he said that if the government remained steadfast in its decision to the end, there would be no other option but to call for a larger movement.