Suspension of transportation and ongoing shutdown causes suffering for 15,000 Jashore automotive workers
Nearly 15,000 workers of the automotive parts industries in Jashore stare at a bleak future owing to the ongoing countrywide transportation suspension over the coronavirus pandemic.
An engineering factory worker named Mohammad Shakil said they have not been paid for the last one month. "I could not pay the house rent. Besides, there is almost no food at my home. I have been surviving on loans from relatives."
Another worker, Riaz Hossen, said they used to get paid Tk1,000 per week. There was other income too.
"I don't get paid any more, and I am now dependent on relief provided by local people. I cannot tolerate the stress anymore," said Riaz.
There are at least 300 factories in Jashore that produce parts and accessories for buses, trucks, pickup trucks, and bikes as well as agricultural machinery. Around 1,500 technicians and workers are employed in this sector.
This thriving hotspot for automotive parts supplies the country's renowned transport companies with locally-made automotive parts and accessories.
However, the shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic closed factories and workshops one and a half months ago, jeopardising the livelihood of the workers. As public transportation and inter-district buses and trucks were suspended, the demand for motor parts dropped drastically.
Besides, workers' fear of virus infection and the district-wise lockdown has put factory owners in further trouble.
Enayet Engineering Workshop is a renowned factory for making vehicle parts. The owner, Akter Hossain, set up the factory in the BSCIC industrial area on 2011. The workshop has 50 workers and produces more than 100 types of motor parts.
Akter Hossain said, "The virus has devasted our business because the factory has been closed for more than one month. The interest on our bank loans is mounting. I do not know what to do."
Brake drums, pressure plates, gearboxes, brake discs, engine housing, hanger and gear box body are some of the parts that Enayet Engineering Workshop manufactures locally. The price of the parts vary from Tk500 to Tk5000 and have buyers from different parts of the country.
Three years ago Kamrul Hasan Sohel set up the SK Metal Industry in the Upashahar area, which produces springs for pick-up vans. After completing higher education, Sohel took a job. Later, he quit and started producing motor parts.
Nearly 50 technicians produce around 3,000 springs per month at the factory.
"There has been no income since the virus outbreak and everything seems to have frozen. The loss for us will be devastating," said Sohel.
The president of Jashore Light Automobile Engineering Owners Association, Asraful Islam Babu, started his business of agro parts with only Tk1,200 back in 1992.
Three years later, he established Ripon Engineering Workshop, which used to produce different types of agricultural machinery and stone crushers. He used to export 15 stone crushers to India per month.
Now Babu says, "This virus has left us undone. We are not able to clear the arrears pay of our workers."
Former president of the Jashore Chamber of Commerce, Mijanur Rahman Khan, says the workers are skilled and totally dependent on motor parts manufacturing.
He said, "The workers have to buy three meals a day on a poor income. It is very disappointing that their income is totally off now. The reality is that owners are also unable to pay the workers as their sales have stopped."