Thousands of jute mill workers in Khulna, Chattogram and Rajshahi divisions are observing an indefinite hunger strike to press home their 11-point charter of demand, including implementation of the wage commission and cancellation of public-private partnership system.
A worker died on Thursday and 220 others had fallen sick till Friday evening as the workers of state-owned jute mills continued their fast-unto-death for the fourth day.
The deceased, Abdus Sattar, was a loom department labour at Platinum Jubilee Jute Mills in Khulna.
As Sattar's body was taken to agitation ground in Khalishpur, the workers became more infuriated.
They said chilly weather and hunger were taking a toll on them. However, the agitators vowed not to return home until their demands are met.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Monnujan Sufian on Thursday told the media that an inter-ministerial meeting had been called on the request of textiles and jute ministry on 15 December where they would try to resolve the wage board issue of the workers.
Begum Monnujan Sufian also declared to give Tk50,000 to the family of Sattar, from the Department of Labour.
There are nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna. Of these, seven are located in Khulna and two in Jashore.
Workers from Star, Platinum, Crescent, Alim, Eastern, Daulatpur, Khalishpur, JJI and Carpeting jute mills of the Khulna-Jashore industrial belt began demonstration on Tuesday afternoon.
On the fourth day of the hunger strike, 200 plus workers fell sick. The workers, whose condition deteriorated, were admitted to Khulna Medical College Hospital. While the other workers were administered intravenous saline at their tents, the Sangram
Parishad's member secretary and also president of Platinum Employees' Union Shahana Sharmina said.
Workers of nine jute mills of Chattorgram division began a hunger strike on early Tuesday at the gate of Amin Jute Mills Ltd. Till Friday, 11 agitating workers became ill due to continued fasting and chilly winter.
Kabir Hossain, joint secretary of the Jatiya Sramik Federation at Amin Jute Mill, said in the harsh winter, 11 workers, including Harun, Hatem, Ismail, Faiz Ahmed, Dulal, Rahim, Neymat Ullah, fell sick.
Some of them were admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital while others received primary treatment.
As the winter has come, the agitating workers said, more of them were falling sick every day. Yet, they pledged to fast-unto-death until their demands are met.
Jute mill workers resorted to hunger strike at the main gate of Rajshahi Jute Mills. Nine workers fell sick until Friday evening. Of them, two recovered after primary treatment. The remaining seven were admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.
The hospitalised workers are Abdul Gafur, Joynal Abedin, Altafun Begum, Mohsin Kabir, Aslam Ali, Mosharraf Hossain, Mozammel Haque and Mansur Rahman.
The hunger strike would continue until their demands are met, said Zillur Rahman, president of Collective Bargaining Association Sangram Parishad of Rajshahi Jute Mills.
"We have been pushed to the wall. There's no turning back for us until our demands are met," Zillur asserted.