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Habiganj tea workers refuse to return work without Tk 300 daily wage

The workers of 23 tea estates in Habiganj’s Lashkarpur valley have refused to go back to work without Tk 300 daily wage as some fellow protesters in Sylhet and Moulvibazar have agreed to join work while talks to raise their pay continue.

The agitated workers continued their demonstrations at Chandpur Tea Estate in Chunarughat on Monday as Habiganj Deputy Commissioner Ishrat Jahan unsuccessfully tried to talk them out of the strike.

Sadhon Santal, chairman of the tea estate’s Panchayet, said they did not join work because the central committee of the workers’ committee did not instruct them to do so officially, reports bdnews24.com.

“We will join work if the committee issues instructions on its official pad, but of course not without Tk 300 daily wage. We won’t go back to work with less pay than this.”

Ishrat said the authorities were trying their best to make the workers go back to work. Upazila executive officers and other officials were holding talks with the workers, she said.

“I hope the workers will join work on Tuesday.”

Around 125,000 workers of 241 tea estates in Bangladesh have been demonstrating since Aug 9 demanding that the owners raise their daily wage from Tk 120 to Tk 300.

They abstained from work for two hours daily for four days and then launched a full-scale strike. After 12 days of strike, their leaders agreed to end the strike, accepting an offer to raise the pay by Tk 25 to Tk 145. But many workers refused the hike and continued to protest.

In Sylhet, the workers of 19 out of 23 tea estates abstained from work. Some in Moulvibazar started working for Tk 120 daily wage with the hope that the ongoing talks will yield results. They later decided to join the protests again.

Some of the protesters in Habiganj were angry at the union leaders. “We’re on strike for 14 days and suffered losses for this. The question of joining work with Tk 145 daily wage doesn’t arise,” said Biren Tantubai, a protester.

Khairun Akter, president of female workers’ association Cha Konya Nari Sangathan, alleged the leaders struck a secret deal with the owners. “It won’t work. No one will go back to work without Tk 300 daily wage.”