Almost 4,000 workers of seven state-owned jute mills in Khulna and Jessore yesterday staged demonstrations to press home their 11-point demand including implementation of wage board recommendations.
The workers from Daulatpur, Crescent, Platinum, Star, Aleem, Eastern, and Khalishpur jute mills blockaded the Khulna-Dhaka highway for four hours and set fire on the road and rail tracks.
They also burned tyres in Notun Rasta intersection and Daulatpur area in Khulna city.
The 11-point demand includes payment of arrears (4 to 12 weeks); implementation of wage board recommendations along with a 20 percent dearness allowance, and removal of corrupt officials from the factories.
“We've been facing problems for years, including irregular payments from the government,” said Sohorab Hossain, convener of Bangladesh State-Owned Jute Mill CBA-Non CBA Oikya Parishad.
The government announced a pay structure following recommendations by a wage board in June 2015, but it has not been implemented yet, he said.
“If our demands are not met by May 1, we will go for a tougher movement,” said Putul Khatun, a female worker leader of Crescent Jute Mill.
Meanwhile, hundreds of commuters suffered as all Khulna-bound buses were halted due to the blockade, in Phultala and Nowapara areas.
Doly Kundu was on her way to Khulna Medical College Hospital from Narail district with her six-year-old ailing daughter. But, due to the blockade, the bus dropped them off at Phultala upazila, from where they took a rickshaw van to Daulatpur, some 20 kilometres away.
“We will have to walk another 5 km to reach the hospital,” Doly told this correspondent.
Four Khulna-bound trains were also stopped at Nowapara Railway Station in Jessore.
Contacted, Manik Chandra Sarker, station master of Khulna Railway Station, said three trains -- Chitra Express, Rocket Express and Mohananda Express -- could not leave the station yesterday morning due to the blockade. “Hundreds of passengers are stuck at the station due to the ongoing demonstrations.”
Later, at 12:21pm, the Dhaka-bound Chitra Express resumed its journey followed by the other trains, he added.