Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union, an organisation of tea garden workers, went on a countrywide strike from Saturday for an indefinite period demanding a hike in their daily wages.
Leaders and activists of the organisation’s Sylhet and Chattogram divisional units expressed their solidarity on Friday night with the organisation’s Moulvibazar unit that the daily wage of a tea garden worker should be raised to Tk 300 from Tk 120 following the recent unusual hike in the prices of essential commodities.
They staged demonstrations at different tea gardens across the country from early Saturday, abstaining from their regular works to press home their demand, according to the union activists.
On Thursday afternoon, Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union leaders declared an indefinite strike in the tea gardens of Moulvibazar after a meeting with the divisional labour department officials.
The meeting aimed at settling the tea garden workers’ demand for daily wage hike.
The union activists gathered at Lakkatura Cha Bagan, a state-owned tea garden along the Sylhet airport road at about 6:00am and started demonstrations.
They blocked the airport Road for more than half an hour from 11:00am and then marched towards the city’s Chowhatta intersection where they staged a sit-in to drum up support for their demand.
The organisation activists also staged similar programmes at all tea gardens across Moulvibazar.
Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union organising secretary Bijoy Hajra told New Age that they had been observing a two-hour work abstention from Tuesday while the divisional labour department invited them to a meeting on Thursday afternoon to settle the issue.
‘The meeting ended without any decision as we could not agree with the proposal given by the labour department officials to adjourn our movement until August 28,’ Bijoy said, adding that no garden owners attended the meeting.
He said that the situation forced them to go on an indefinite strike from Friday.
Raju Goala, president of Sylhet Valley, BCSU, told New Age that they would continue their strike and stage sit-in until their demand was met.
GM Shiblee, Sylhet divisional branch chairman of Bangladesh Tea Association, said that the incident of work abstention by the tea garden workers was illegal when efforts were underway to settle the issue.
‘The demand for wage hike is logical when the prices of all commodities have gone up in recent days. But the tea garden workers cannot go on strike during the ongoing pick season,’ Shiblee added.
He argued that the labour ministry officials were talking to tea garden workers to bring them back to work.
Ganasamhati Andolon in a statement on Saturday demanded that a tea garden worker’s daily wage be increased to Tk 300 from Tk 120.
The joint statement signed by Ganasamhati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki and its executive coordinator Abul Hassan Rubel said that it was inhuman to pay a tea garden worker Tk 120 a day amid the increasing pieces of essentials.