It is more than two months since the government assured the workers of closed jute mills across the country of paying their due salaries and other bills within two months of the closure, but they are yet to receive their salaries.
The authorities concerned had also promised the workers that the closed jute mills would be reopened on public private partnership (PPP) arrangements, but there is no visible progress in this regard either.
"Although two months have passed since the jute mills were closed, we have received no money. Six other due bills from last year have not been cleared either. We are passing days in inhuman conditions," said one of the workers of the closed jute mills who gathered in front of Crescent Jute Mill on September 1.
The government on June 25 decided to close down 25 state-owned jute mills, including nine in the Khulna region, as they had been incurring losses continuously.
Then on July 2 notices announcing the closure of the jute mills were hung at the mills. The notice also said the workers would be brought under a golden handshake program.
Although the government promised at the time that the closed jute mills would be reopened under PPP arrangement, no decision in this regard has been taken yet, said sources at the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC).
On condition of anonymity, a BJMC official said, "The government may need Tk3,700 crore to pay off the recently retired 8,100 workers and around 1,000 more workers who retired earlier at seven jute mills in Khulna."
"Workers who were appointed on a temporary basis in the Khalishpur and Daulatpur jute mills will receive no such government facility," he said.
According to sources at the BJMC, around 1,000 workers in nine jute mills in Khulna region went on retirement in 2013 and 2014. Although six or seven years have passed since their retirement, they have received no money.
Only a few retired workers received their provident fund money, but none received the money due as per the National Wage Commission rules and gratuity.
Mansur Ali, a worker of Crescent Jute Mill, said, "I received Tk26,000 as two months' (June-July) basic salary when the mill was closed. But I have not been paid the rest of the due salary and gratuity money."
He further said when the mills were closed, the workers were promised that all the dues would be paid within August, but there has been no update from the mill authorities till now.
"We cannot even find any mill official to talk to. I am suffering immensely with my wife and six children," said Mansur.
Sheikh Farid, organising secretary of a workers body (CBA) of Crescent Jute Mill, said, "There is no update about our dues, but we are still hoping that we will receive all the money together."
"We also hope that the mills will be reopened after BMRE (balancing, modernisation, rehabilitation, and expansion) and we will be able return to work," he added.
However, Md Kalam Mullik, former manager (admin) of Crescent Jute Mill, said he did not know anything regarding a reopening of the closed jute mills.
Abdul Jalil, a retired security guard of the Platinum Jubilee Jute Mill, said he went on retirement on September 27, 2014. He then filed a writ in the High Court, after which his tenure was extended for one year.
In 2015, he was included in the new pay scale. When he retired again on September 27, 2015, he was supposed to receive around Tk15 lakh as dues and gratuity, for which he sent a letter to the mill authorities. Five years have passed since then, but he has not received his money.
He said, "I am going through a very difficult time with my wife, five daughters and two sons. On some days we do not have anything to eat at all. If the mill authorities paid off my dues, I could have a little peace at this old age."
A worker of Eastern Jute Mill, Golam Mostafa, said, "There is no other way than pulling rickshaw vans or rickshaws to bear the expenses of our families. If this situation continues, my children's studies will be halted."
The BJMC's liaison officer for Khulna, Golam Rabbani, said he did not know anything about the due salaries of the retired workers.
However, regarding jute mill workers' dues, Additional Secretary of the Textile and Jute Ministry Abul Kalam Azad recently said, "Work on scrutiny has finished. Paying off of dues will start after 8-10 days."