Dhaka, Bangladesh
Paying jute mill workers’ dues a welcome move

Paying jute mill workers’ dues a welcome move

In a welcome move, the government has started the disbursement of the wage arrears and other benefits of the laid-off and retired workers of 25 shuttered state- run jute mills. As reported by different media, the cheque disbursement started Tuesday in a lavish ceremony inside Karim Jute Mills Corporation on the outskirts of Dhaka in presence of jute minister Golam Dastagir Gazi and jute secretary Mohammad Lokman Hossain. Although only 30 of the laid-off workers got the cheques during the ceremony, the authorities have promised to complete the task in the current fiscal year. The government closed down the jute mills on July 1 in its bid to offset losses incurred by the mills every year and to modernise them under public-private partnership. The mills employed around 25000 permanent workers and employees alongside many more temporary and substitute workers. According to the ministry's decision announced on June 28, a total of 24,609 laid-off permanent workers and 10,107 retired ones will receive their dues directly into their bank accounts. Moreover, as per the suggestion of Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, 50 percent of their dues will be paid by bank cheque and another 50 percent through savings instrument. The workers will not be able to sell the savings tools in three years. During the period, they will get interest from the savings tools. However, there are some complaints from workers of the jute mills who are to receive back pays and benefits. In the first place, workers have reportedly faced harassment when they approached the mill authorities over the payment of dues. In the name of processing the payments, some officials have allegedly asked for unauthorised money, although the amount of money to be paid by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation should directly go into the workers’ bank accounts. Filling up different papers necessary for the payment by workers and employees many of whom are even illiterate is indeed a complicated process to them. The workers have also referred to the BJMC officials not coming out of the lackadaisical manner, in which they usually responded to the queries and demands of workers, in making the payment of the arrears. The ministry officials tasked with monitoring the entire process of the payment to laid-off and retired workers need to look into matters. They also need to keep in mind that many workers may lack adequate knowledge of savings instruments and thus become vulnerable to swindlers’ trap. There might be no substantial legal grounds for the temporary and substitute workers, many of whom were in the service even for decades and have no other option to make their ends meet, but the ministry should not leave them in the lurch at least on humanitarian grounds. It is all the more so as they are among the worst victims of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Above all, we also suggest the laid-off jute-mill workers to keep faith, as the minister has urged during the inauguration of the payment of the workers’ dues, in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about getting all of their dues on time and the opportunity to work in the jute mills again when they will be reopened with modern machinery with a new lease of life.

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