Jute mill workers in Khulna have announced a tougher movement including hunger strike if the government does not revoke the decision to close the state-owned jute mills within 24 hours. The jute mill workers made the announcement while holding a sit-in in front of the Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill in the city on Tuesday afternoon.
They said that under no circumstances will the mills be allowed to close, and asked the government to restructure Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation and keep the mills running.
Meanwhile, workers of nine jute mills in Khulna started a sit-in in front of their respective mills from 2 pm on Tuesday to 2 pm on Wednesday in protest of the government's decision to launch state-owned jute mills based on public-private partnership (PPP). Earlier, the workers and their family members held a two-hour sit-in, from 9 am to 11 pm, on Monday demanding the same.
Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) president of Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill Shahana Sharmin, general secretary Humayun Kabir Khan, former president Kauser Ali Mridha, former general secretary Khalilur Rahman, Selim Akon, Abul Kalam Zia, Nurul Haque, Bellal Hossain, Shukur Ali and others spoke at the event.
CBA leaders of 25 jute mills of the country met with the state minister for labour and employment Begum Mannujan Sufian in Dhaka on Monday night to resolve the ongoing problems. The meeting lasted for about three and a half hours but no solution was found.
Sahana Sharmin, CBA president of Platinum Jute Mills, who attended the meeting, said the state minister for employment had been informed of various demands, including keeping the mills open. However, no such assurance was received so the movement will continue as the demand has not been realised.
Sardar Abdul Hamid, the convener of the CBA-Non-CBA Sangram Parishad, which works to protect state-owned jute mills, said thousands of workers would become unemployed if the mills were closed suddenly and everyone with a family will become homeless.
He said this erroneous decision to close the mill should be changed. Otherwise, they will go for a strict agitation programme.
Khulna's state-owned Crescent, Star, Platinum, Eastern, Daulatpur, Khalishpur, JJI, Alim and Carpeting Jute employ 8,100 permanent workers and about 15,000 temporary workers.
On Monday, the district administration announced through a press conference that the government has decided to run all state-owned jute mills on a public-private partnership basis.
One worker died of a heart attack.
A worker of Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill named Abul Kalam, 57, has died of a heart attack. Mill workers said he became senseless and died on the spot after seeing a dismissal letter on Facebook at 9:30 am on Tuesday.
Khelayet Hossain Khan, a loom worker at the Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill, said Abul Kalam saw on Facebook that if he loses his job, 40 percent of the arrears would be paid in the first year, 30 percent in the next year and another 30 percent the following year. Since the previously retired workers had not yet received the money, he suffered a heart attack and died on the spot.