Bangladesh moves to shut down state-owned jute mills
Principal Secretary to the PM said the government had no alternative as the cumulative loss of the factories keeps ballooning
The government has announced to shut down production of all 25 state-owned jute mills after making full payments to the workers amid protests.
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Ahmed Kaikaus revealed the developments Thursday at a press briefing at the Prime Minister's Office.
The decision will send at least 25,000 workers at the mills into early retirements as they will be seen off with a "golden handshake."
The decision came at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina amid widespread protests among the workers over the government's closure decision.
"She [prime minister] became very emotional when she made the decision," said Dr Kaikaus.
The principal secretary said the government has a fund of Tk5,000 crore to pay the dues of the workers. "Half of the dues will be paid with cash and the remaining amount will be paid through savings certificates," he said.
Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi in an online press conference on Sunday said that the government was going to shut down the country's 25 public jute mills due to huge amounts of recurring losses year after year.
The move forms part of the plans to modernise the loss-making jute sector and turn into a production-oriented industry under the private-public partnership model, according to the minister.
The decision flared up protests among the workers in Khulna, Chattogram, Dhaka and other industrial areas of the country.
The workers of nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna expressed their disappointment as the government stuck to its decision over the closure.
Sahana Sharmin, CBA president of Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill, said the workers of Khulna region would decide their next step on the government's decision at a meeting on Saturday morning.
Dr Kaikaus said that the government had no option to close these mills as the cumulative loss of the mills amounted to Tk10,674 crore.
He further said that no worker would be terminated, they were just being sent to retirement and they would get paid.
"Around 25,000 of the workers have dues worth Tk5,000 crore according to the latest wage structure," he said, adding that the prime minister has ordered to prepare a list of the workers within the next three months.
Golam Dastagir Gazi on Sunday said the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation's (BJMC) contribution to jute production is only 8.21 percent, while the export rate is even lower, 4.45 percent.
The minister said the continuation of these mills in the current structure with huge subsidies for nominal production and insignificant exports is conflicting with the economic policy.
Jute workers at many places have been protesting the decision since then. Some leftist political parties joined the workers while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has also announced solidarity with the jute workers.