Transport workers of the country want increased wages as commodity prices have increased following a hike in fuel price.
Talking to The Business Standard (TBS), transport workers also said the ongoing transport strike has left them with no earnings in the last four days, further exacerbating the income loss they suffered during the government imposed lockdown earlier this year.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation (BRTWF), there are at least 50 lakh transportation workers in the country, including seven lakh for buses.
On average, a transport worker earns Tk500 a day, according to BRTWF data. The ongoing transport strike has cost them Tk1,000 crore in total.
Talking to this correspondent, transport workers at the Mohakhali bus depot said they are in peril as they have not been able to earn during the strike.
"We are not well. We never want the buses to stop operating," said Shafiqul Islam, a helper of Shoukhin Paribahan, which operates on the Mohakhali-Tangail route.
"On a regular day, we earn Tk700 to Tk800. But in the last four days, we have had no income," he said.
Shafiqul added, "I cannot send any money to my family. All daily essential prices are rising. Our wages also need to rise. It is not possible for me to support my family with what I earn.
"We failed to earn when buses stopped operating amid the pandemic. We had to live on borrowed money."
Meanwhile, the Dhaka District Bus-Minibus Road Transport Workers Union's Organising Secretary Jamal Hossain said workers are helpless before the owners' decisions.
"Owners decided not to operate buses. We are helpless if they want to do that," he said.
"The hike in fuel price will also increase the price of daily commodities. Transport workers will not be able to bear the expense of their families with the existing wages under such circumstances. We have asked owners to increase our wages.
"It is the workers who incur losses when buses do not run. They do not get paid," he said.
On the water transport side, there are about 20,000 workers across the country, according to the Bangladesh Shipping Workers Federation (BSWF).
Ashikul Alam, general secretary of the federation, said, "We have been saying from the beginning that increasing the fuel price is illogical. Now, prices of all commodities are rising as well. The wages of workers need to rise too. Otherwise, all activities by workers will remain halted."
When prices of everything is increasing, how will workers survive if their wages do not rise too, he asked.
Ashikul added, "The minimum wage of a water transport worker is Tk7,500. We have been demanding for it to be raised to Tk20,000 for a long time."
Md Jahngir Hawladar, launch master of Parabat-12, said, "How is a worker supposed to live on Tk7,500. I have six members in my family and I get paid Tk10,000 a month. This amount is not enough to bear my family's expenses."