Around 8,000 employees of the clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents at Chattogram port, who have kept the seaport's export-imports up and running through the pandemic, are yet to qualify for government Covid incentives.
Owners and employees of these agents say they have been working on the frontline during the pandemic and they should get the government incentives.
Seeking the government incentive, the C&F Agent Employees' Union had filed an application with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on 14 April last year. The organisation applied again on this 4 May as they did not get a response to the previous appeal.
Zakir Hossain, general secretary of the union, told The Business Standard that people belonging to other professions can enjoy general holidays or work-from-home office during the movement restrictions. But 8,000 C&F agent employees do not have that luxury as they have to continue working at the port, the customs house, and private off docks.
He said the employees' union has applied this year again as their previous application might not have caught the prime minister's attention.
"Like doctors, bankers or journalists, we expect the government to include C&F agent employees in the list of frontline fighters against the Covid-19 virus," said Zakir Hossain.
According to sources in the Union, six clearing and forwarding workers died from Covid-19 while hundreds of workers have been infected since March last year. Also, 2,000 C&F agent employees have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Citing their workload in the letter to the PMO, the union wrote, "Workers are currently living in inhumane conditions due to the pandemic."
It sought financial assistance for C&F agent employees from the fund the government has announced.
Mosharraf Hossain, former joint general secretary of the C&F Agent Employees' Union, said families of C&F agent employees who died from Covid-19 were living in inhumane conditions. Besides, the employees who have lost their jobs are also in trouble. In such a situation, our demand is to bring C&F agent workers under government incentives.
Kazi Mahmud Imam Bilu, first joint general secretary of the C&F Agents' Association, also extended the association's support to the demand for incentive.
Rumi Barua, the widow of Suchayan Barua who died from Covid-19 infection last June, said her husband's employer has been paying them Tk10,000 per month since her husband's death. But with the paltry amount, it is tough to run the family and meet the educational costs of the kids.
Partha Pratim Barua, owner of C&F agent Joy Traders, and former employer of Suchayan Barua, said 14 of their 32 employees have been infected by the virus so far.
"Clearing and forwarding agent workers are working to keep the wheels of the country's economy moving. So, they should be brought under government incentives," he said.