It was a very early morning last week when day labourer Jalal Uddin, like all other days, came to the Satrasta intersection of Khulna city to get hired for work.
Hit hard by commodity price hikes, the middle-aged man was looking for a higher wage to manage his five-member family, but was upset by the condition of the labour haat – a floating marketplace for hiring day workers.
Hundreds of day workers had been waiting there for hours, but few were hired. Moreover, the wages offered for the day, Tk450-500, was very low compared to normal days earlier.
As time passed, Jalal Uddin realised he might not get work for the day. He changed his mind that he would work at any wage.
"If I remain idle a day, it will cost me more. So there is no alternative but to compromise and go to work at a lower wage," Jalal Uddin said, talking to The Business Standard (TBS) on Monday last.
"Prices of all essential commodities have been on the rise constantly, but the price of our labour has been going down."
Expressing frustration, he said his family is currently being managed on debt. "But how many days can we survive if this continues?"
Like Jalal Uddin, most workers at Satrasta labourer haat are now facing the same hurdles. They have been witnessing a dramatic drop in work and remuneration alongside commodity price hikes triggered by the 5 August fuel price increase.
"We worked at a wage of Tk600-700 a month ago, which has now dropped to as low as Tk450," said another worker Abu Bakar Siddiq.
"Now if I get a job for one day, I don't get any work for the next two days. So I am forced to compromise on wages," he told TBS.
"I do not understand why our wages have suddenly decreased at a time when prices of all goods are on the rise. When we try to negotiate for higher wages, people hire fewer workers. For example, one needs 5 but he hires 3. So many workers remain unemployed every day," said Azizul Haque, who is from the Roy Para area of the city.
The workers at this haat are mainly hired by homeowners in Khulna city on a daily basis for various types of work, from cutting soil to painting walls. Many also hire labourers to move from one home to another.
Talking to TBS, employers said they are also in trouble with price hikes which is why they cannot offer appropriate wages to workers.
"The price of everything has suddenly increased. But we cannot raise house rent accordingly, as tenants are now frequently shifting from higher-rent homes to lower-rent ones," said Mainur Gazi, who came to hire two workers to get his home cleaned after two tenant families left.
"I needed some repair work but cannot do so because of financial constraints.
"So, for now, I want to prepare the flats with just cleaning for rent," he added.