Bangladesh water transport workers go on strike over pay, safety

Water transport workers have halted the transportation of goods across the country for an indefinite period from Tuesday to press home their 11-point demand, including the implementation of the 2016 pay scale.

The movement of cargo vessels was stopped in the early hours of Tuesday as per the earlier announcement following a ‘failed’ meeting with the vessel owners, said Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation.

About 20 small and large cargo vessels in different parts of the country, including Narayanganj, Chattogram, Khulna and Mongla, are under the strike, he told on Tuesday.

"We haven’t received any assurances from the owners yet. About 200,000 workers are participating in the strike. They have been forming human chains, holding processions and shouting slogans since the morning.”

The strike was called in front of the Department of Labour headquarters in Dhaka on Oct 13.

The owners subsequently called a meeting with the representatives of the agitating workers to discuss their demands on Monday.

“We had raised our demands during long discussions with the owners. But they did not accept any of our demands. So, we had to carry on with the strike,” said Alam.

The workers also staged a similar movement in November last year. That movement was later halted after the workers were given ‘assurance.’ But our demands were ultimately not met, said workers.

Other demands include stopping extortion and robbery in vessels, providing appointment letters to workers, issuing identity cards and service books to workers and ensuring social safety of workers.