Wednesday, 5 October, 2022

Tea workers return to strike for Tk 300 wage; block Dhaka-Sylhet highway (Updated)

Tea garden workers, who rejected the wage hike by Tk 25 to Tk 145 a day staged demonstrations on Dhaka-Sylhet highway and Airport Road in Sylhet on Sunday demanding Tk 300 as their daily wage.

They abstained from joining work as the leaders of Bangladesh Tea Workers Union on Saturday night announced that they did not withdraw the strike upon assurance of a Tk 25 hike in wage.

Tea garden workers from five gardens including Teliapara, Surma, Noyapara staged rally at J Jagdishpur Muktijoddha Chattar area of Madhabpur upazila around 11:30 am and blocked the highway, creating a long tailback of vehicles on both sides of the road.

Around 3 pm they suspended the blockade on instruction from Bangladesh Tea Worker Union leaders as they assured by August 23 their demand will be fulfilled.

The workers from Sylhet valley gardens blocked the road connecting to MAG Osmani International Airport from 12 pm to 2 pm, creating a huge traffic gridlock.

Later upon getting assurance from district Awami League President Shafiqur Rahman Chowdhury the workers left the area and staged demonstrations at Lakkatura Tea garden.

If their demand is not fulfilled within 24 hours, they will resume their movement blocking roads again from Monday, said Debasish Goyala, one of the protesting workers. “Our strike will continue,” he said.

General Secretary of Laskarpur valley worker union Aniruddha Baraik said, “In a meeting with workers from 23 gardens in the valley all have rejected the withdrawal of strike upon assurance of only Tk 25 hike in wage so we continued it from today.”

Meanwhile, Bijoy Hazra, General Secretary of Bangladesh Tea Worker Union told UNB on Sunday that the strike will continue in all tea gardens of the country.

On Saturday night, tea garden workers leaders claimed they postponed their indefinite strike demanding the wage hike for Tk 300 from Tk 120 until they meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after her return from India.

“We didn’t call off the strike, rather we stayed it showing respect to the prime minister as we will hold a meeting with her when she comes back from India,” said Raju Goyala, president of Tea Workers Unit of Sylhet Valley after a meeting with Sylhet Deputy Commissioner (DC) Md Mojibur Rahman .

Raju Goyala said workers of 23 tea gardens in Sylhet agreed to join their works from Sunday following a meeting with the DC. However, he could not provide any information about the other gardens in the country.

The general tea garden workers rejected the Tk 25 daily wage hike fixed by the government on Saturday and vowed to continue their movement for a Tk 300 daily wage.

Around 8pm, the workers blocked the Choumuhona Chattar area at Sreemangal on the road connecting Moulvibazar with Dhaka-Sylhetand staged a rally and demonstrated against the decision of withdrawing the strike.

On Saturday afternoon, after a meeting with the Labour Department, tea workers’ union leaders called off their indefinite strike after assurance of raising their wage to Tk 145 from Tk 120.

The general tea garden workers opposed the announcement immediately and demonstrated in front of the Sreemangal Labour Department office for raising their wage to Tk 300.

On August 9, the Bangladesh Tea Workers Union started two-hour work abstention a day demanding daily wage hike.

Workers demanded an increase of their wage to Tk300, with inflation rising and the currency depreciating. The workers of 241 tea gardens across the country went on a full-scale strike on Aug 13, after four days of two-hour work abstention.

Bangladesh is producing a record amount of tea every year through the toil of the tea workers. In 2021, a record 96 million kilograms of tea was produced in the country thanks to the hard labour of the underpaid tea workers.

Although two agreements on increasing wages were signed, the fate of more than 1.5 lakh tea workers in the country hasn’t changed a bit.