At around noon on Sunday, in front of the Platinum Jute Mill in Khulna, eight to ten jute mill workers, who worked in the mill only five days ago, were sitting at the mill gate in despair, losing their jobs, and eagerly waiting to know whether they will get their jobs back when the mill reopens.
On Thursday, a circular from the Ministry of Textiles and Jute announced the closure of 25 state-owned jute mills, including nine in the BJMC-controlled Khulna region. At the same time, the workers were relieved to hear about a golden handshake.
Following the closure, there were no workers in the state-owned jute mills in the Khalishpur industrial area of Khulna. The familiar noise of the mills has stopped. Workers with the pain of losing their jobs in their eyes, are living in anxiety. Newly retired workers are waiting to receive their dues.
Retired worker Jalal Mia said he had joined Platinum Jute Mill in 1982 as a replacement worker (temporary worker) and became permanent in 2010.
"The wage commission has announced that gratuities and provident funds will be paid soon. That is all I want now," he said.
His co-worker Abdul Karim, who hails from Barisal, said he was anxious about getting the arrears pay.
Another retired worker, Alamgir Hossain, who has been working as a permanent worker for 18 years, said though the government says the mill would be reopened, he is not sure if he will get the job again.
"We have doubts about getting the money because those who retired in 2013-14 have not received their dues yet," he added.
The temporary workers said that they have suffered a lot due to the closure of the mill as they will not get any benefit. Their children's education will be stopped.
"We are helpless now," said Abdul Hamid Sardar, convener of the CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad to protect statehood jute mills, adding that in this situation, "we demand payment of dues of temporary workers and the reopening of the mills again."
Banij Uddin Mia, Khulna regional coordinator of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), said as per government directives, production has been stopped and the jobs of the jute mills workers have been terminated from July 1. The mills will remain closed until further notice.
He said the retired permanent workers of seven mills in Khulna region will get all government benefits. However, temporary workers and daily wage workers of Khalishpur and Daulatpur Jute Mills will not get any government benefits.
Jute mill workers will be paid fair dues:
Khulna City Corporation mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleq said the dues of workers of seven state-owned jute mills in Khulna would be paid as per government directives. The government has allocated Tk5,000 crore to pay the debt.
The mills will continue to operate through government and private-public partnerships. All these jute mills will be made production-oriented by modernisation under PPP. The mills will be run by skilled workers. The workers' gratuity and the provident fund will be paid according to employment rules, he added.
On June 25, the government decided to close 25 state-owned jute mills, including nine in the Khulna region. This prompted workers to hold protests over the closure of the mills. The CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad announced a two-day ultimatum through a press conference on June 26.
The workers' movement started with sit-ins, demonstrations and rallies. Children of working families also took part in this movement. The atmosphere in Khulna's industrial area became heavy with the slogans of the workers.
However, on June 30, the workers' leaders suspended the programme as no notice to close the mills was forthcoming.
Meanwhile, additional police were deployed at Khalishpur People's Gol Chattor, Daulatpur Jute Mill Gate, Atra Eastern Mill Gate and Nawapara Industrial Area.
Notice of job termination of workers under a Golden Handshake including the closure of jute mills was put on the notice boards of Platinum, Crescent, Khalishpur, Daulatpur, Star, Eastern, Carpeting and JJI Jute Mills one by one on Thursday night.