Workers of nine state-owned jute mills in the Khulna industrial belt have decided to continue demonstration including sit-ins and indefinite hunger strikes as their Monday meeting with the Ministry of Labour and Employment ended without any solution.
During the meeting at labour office in the capital, the labour leaders told their counterparts that workers were not responsible for the huge amount of reoccurring losses every year.
"Find those people who have turned the production lines into losing concerns. Why would the labours take responsibility for the misdeeds of others,"said Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill's Collective Bargaining Agent(CBA) President Shahana Sharmin quoting the leaders present at the meeting.
The CBA leader said they sought one year to turn the mills profitable, but the labour secretary did not agree.
Shahana Sharmin said the workers will stage mass sit-ins with their family members in front of the mill gates on Tuesday and Wednesday. The workers will go on an indefinite hunger strike from Wednesday afternoon if the government does not draw back from the closure decision by that time.
The government on Sunday formally announced that it was likely to stop operating the state-owned jute mills under the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation on July 1, and that around 25,000 workers would leave their workplace with a 'golden handshake'.
In Khulna, more than 10,000 workers took position in front of their respective mills on Monday protesting the decision.
In another development, a press conference was held at Khulna Circuit House where Khulna City Corporation Mayor Talukder Abdul Khalek and Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Helal Hossain gave an assurance that workers would be seen off with a 'golden handshake' while 9,000 retired workers would also be paid their dues and other retirement benefits by next September.
The city mayor said, "The mills will be reopened under the public-private partnership arrangement within the next six months after modernisation. Recruitment after the reopening will prioritise the former workers and none will remain jobless."
Deputy Commissioner Helal Hossain said workers will get 40 percent dues in the 2020-21 fiscal year while the remaining 60 percent will be paid in the next two years.
He said, "Each worker will get roughly Tk12 to Tk54 lakh and these workers will also get priority in the next recruitment."
But the workers were sceptical of the commitment.
Crescent Jute Mill worker Abu Hanif said, "We have not even got regular wages since 2013 and have to take to the street for the payments. But they say we will be paid in one go before the termination. How would we believe that?"
Meantime, Platinum Jute Mill worker Shamsul Alam said, "At least 8,900 workers retired since 2013 and they are yet to get the dues. Then how would we get ours altogether? We will not be able to go inside the factories again once they manage to drive us away."
Previously two or three mills went into public-private ownership and failed completely. Workers of the factories are jobless since then and did not get the dues, he sounded upset.
On top of scepticism, jute mill workers leader Abdul Hamid pointed a finger at "bureaucratic conspiracy" for the closure decision.
"An inter-ministerial meeting took the closure decision on June 25. Certainty it is a bureaucratic conspiracy and we will continue protesting until the government draws back," he commented.
Meanwhile, Jute Mills Corporation Liaison Officer Boniz Uddin Mia said they were yet to get any directive on the closure decision.