Sugar mill workers have announced they will go on a nationwide strike from Monday (7 December) to press home their demand to keep all 15 state-owned sugar mills open, scrapping the move to close six sugar mills.
The Bangladesh Sugar Mills Sugarcane Federation and Bangladesh Sugar Industries Corporation Workers Federation announced the programme at a press conference in the capital's Segunbagicha on Saturday.
A two-hour work stoppage and demonstration will be observed at the gates of all state-owned sugar mills across the country, every day, with the participation of sugarcane farmers and workers, they said.
They also threatened to intensify their movement if the demand is not realised by 15 December.
Shahjahan Ali Badsha, general secretary of the Bangladesh Sugar Mills Sugarcane Farmers Federation, said if sugarcane threshing is stopped at six mills, thousands of workers will lose their jobs and millions of farmers will be deprived of sugarcane cultivation.
He added that on 9 December, the workers will bring out a procession accompanied by an open letter to the prime minister through the deputy commissioner (DC) and the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO).
"If the demand is not met by 15 December, we will go for a tougher movement," he said.
At the time, he called upon the government to keep all 15 sugar mills open instead of stopping sugarcane threshing in six of them.
A letter sent from the Ministry of Industries on 1 December said the government has decided to shut down production at six of the 15 sugar mills under the Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) in a bid to cut its losses.
Production at the Pabna Sugar Mill, Shyampur Sugar Mill, Panchagarh Sugar Mill, Setabganj Sugar Mill, Rangpur Sugar Mill, and Kushtia Sugar Mill will remain shut until further notice, it added.
Mazaharul Haque Pradhan, president of the Bangladesh Sugar Mills Sugarcane Farmers Federation, said farmers will not cultivate sugarcane if six sugar mills stopped threshing the plants. And if there is no sugarcane, these mills will automatically be closed and thousands of workers will lose their jobs.
President of the Bangladesh Sugar Industry Corporation Workers-Employees Federation Masudur Rahman urged the government to take initiatives to make the sugar mills profitable by modernising them and providing an alternative income.
The repair of the old machines and installation of modern ones will reduce the production cost of these factories, he added.
He further said like Keru & Company, every sugar mill should focus on the production of other products – including vinegar.
Anwarul Haque, general secretary of the Sugar Industries Corporation Workers and Employees Federation, plus Khorshed Alam, first vice president of the federation, also spoke.