Family members of the agitating workers of state-owned jute mills have now taken to the street to press home the workers' 11-point charter of demand that include wage hike, and payment of arrears.
The wives, children and other family members of the protesting workers joined them on the fifth day of the second phase of their fast-unto-death programme on Thursday.
Workers of seven state-owned jute mills in Khulna region on Sunday last resumed their hunger strike programme called by CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad. The workers said they would continue their protests until their demands are met.
Meanwhile, the Khulna metropolitan and Khulna district units of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) observed a human chain programme in front of their party office on the city's KD Ghosh Road at 11 am on Thursday expressing solidarity with the protesting jute mill workers.
President of Khulna metropolitan unit of the BNP Nazrul Islam Manju presided over the human chain programme. President of Khulna district unit of the party Advocate SM Shafiqul Alam Mona, BNP leaders Moniruzzaman Moni, Amir Ezaz Khan, Mir Kaysed Ali, Sheikh Mosharraf Hossain, Jafarullah Chowdhury Shachchu, Advocate Fazle Halim Liton, and Principal Tariqul Islam also among others spoke at the programme.
Workers of Platinum, Khalishpur, Daulatpur, Eastern, Alim, Crescent jute mills in Khulna, and JJI and Carpeting jute mills in Jashore observed their fast-unto-death programme in front of their respective mill gates, while the workers of Star Jute Mills observed their programme on BIDC Road in Khalishpur, Khulna for the fifth day on Thursday.
The agitated workers also took position at the Natun Rasta intersection of the city, creating obstacles to vehicular movement on the Khulna-Jashore highway.
Protesting workers said the seven state-owned jute mills in Khulna region have a total of around 50,000 workers.
"In all the jute mills, the workers have not got their wages in the last eight to 10 weeks," they said adding "in this circumstances, their livelihood is naturally at stake."
A young girl of around 10 to 11 years of age, holding a placard, said, "I am the child of a worker. As my father has not been getting his wages for a long time, we are on the verge of death due to scarcity of food."
The placard she held read, "Save my father, I want implementation of my father's wage commission, I want to study properly."
Joint Convener of CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad Murad Hossain said around 20,000 permanent workers from the seven jute mills have participated in the ongoing hunger strike.
"More than 500 workers have fallen ill as a result of continuous fasting, among them around 50 have been admitted to the hospital while the remaining others have continued to fast taking saline", he said.
The workers' leader also expressed firm resolve to continue the protest until their demands are met.
Sources with the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation said among the nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna region, only JJI and Carpeting jute mills are in production at present.
The daily cumulative production target in these nine jute mills is 272.17 metric tonnes, but the two jute mills are currently producing only 86.39 tonnes of jute goods per day.
Meanwhile, a 22-member delegation of workers led by the Sangram Parishad's Convener Hamidur Rahman left Khulna for Dhaka to attend a meeting with the jute minister at the secretariat at 3 pm on Thursday.