The government has decided to send about 25,000 workers of loss-making jute mills into early retirement under a programme known as golden handshake.
Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi announced the development in a media briefing on Sunday.
Golam Dastagir Gazi Golam Dastagir Gazi Workers of the 26 state-owned jute mills across the country have announced protests against the move.
“The jute mills are incurring losses and so the government is considering offering workers the golden handshake to move the industry forward,” said Gazi.
As many as 24,886 permanent workers are employed by the jute mills in the country, according to Textiles and Jute Secretary Lokman Hossain.
“The prime minister has instructed us to send the workers into retirement through the golden handshake scheme. After that, jute mills will be modernised and made production-oriented under PPP (public-private partnership) programme. These workers will then be given the opportunity to work there,” he said.
The secretary pointed out that a total of 8,954 workers, who have retired from the mills since 2013, are yet to receive their pensions due to the financial crunch.
Minister Gazi said the prime minister had directed to clear payment of all workers at a time, including the pensions of those who retired.
Samajtantrik Sramik Front, a leftist organisation of workers, demonstrates in
Dhaka demanding permanent employment and cash aid for jute mill workers. Samajtantrik Sramik Front, a leftist organisation of workers, demonstrates in Dhaka demanding permanent employment and cash aid for jute mill workers. The ministry will clear the payments once it gets the funds from the new budget by September, he said and added it needs a total of Tk 48.69 billion for this.
The minister also promised to reopen the mills under PPP within six months. “The workers will be able to work in the mills then,” he said.
According to Secretary Lokman, the state-owned jute mills yielded profits in just four years over the last 44 years. The government provided subsidies worth Tk 106.74 billion in this sector over the last 48 years. It relied on the government to bear the operating expenses, including the wages of the workers.
The Workers Party has accused the finance minister, the jute minister and several bureaucrats of conspiring to shut down the jute mills.
Rashed Khan Menon, the president of the Workers Party, and General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha made the allegations in a joint statement on Sunday.
Members of the Left Democratic Alliance protest in Dhaka against what they say is a conspiracy to shut the jute mills. Members of the Left Democratic Alliance protest in Dhaka against what they say is a conspiracy to shut the jute mills. “The prime minister promised to reopen the defunct jute mills in her electoral manifesto. She did reopen several factories, except for Adamjee Jute Mills,” they said in the statement.
Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, or BJMC, was filled with “corrupt employees” whose wrongdoings in jute purchasing were only matched by those who did not supply jute during the season or did not take any part in the trade of jute-based goods, according to the statement.
Workers’ Party leaders said retiring the workers through ‘golden handshake’ without taking steps against those responsible for the shutdown of the mills is “meaningless”.
The statement warned that the dismissal of workers from government entities would encourage private companies to follow suit, which could spark a disaster.
The Workers’ Party leaders called upon the government to reverse the decision to shut the mills and asked authorities to modernise the mills citing the benefit of the 30 million people connected to the jute industry.