Country Report Bangladesh January 1996 Main report

Political scene: Jute & textile workers keep up pressure on gov't--

The 300,000 private-sector jute and textile workers staged a 48-hour strike and road and rail blockade on December 6-7 in pursuit of the implementation of the Wages Commission award for private-sector workers, and were joined in some places by public-sector workers from those industries. The strikers were undoubtedly encouraged to take action by the opposition parties, and their action coincided with an unsuccessful attempt by the opposition parties to march on the prime minister's office in Dhaka. Wages in private jute and textile mills are only half that paid to workers in state-owned mills; the basic minimum monthly salary for a public-sector worker is Tk1,100 compared with Tk560 for a worker in a privately owned mill.

--but the Prokrichi movement draws back from the brink--

The Prokrichi movement--professional cadres within the civil service, such as doctors and engineers, who are seeking the same pay and prospects as the privileged administrative cadre--staged a walkout from work on September 28. Two weeks later, a mass meeting was held to protest at the government's action in promoting 201 high-ranking members of the administrative cadre. Earlier in October the Prokrichi movement scented victory in its longrunning dispute when the prime minister was reported to have accepted the recommendations of the Bhuiyan committee to remove the salary anomalies of the nine professional cadres, which were introduced during the Ershad years. The recommendation was to take effect from January 6, 1994. However, no instructions were ever given to the finance ministry to implement the order (which is estimated to cost Tk200m/$5m), and Prokrichi members therefore stayed away from work for a week in protest at the end of November. In December a further stoppage was threatened, but was postponed after assurances had been given that the movement's demands were still receiving consideration.

--while non-government primary school teachers threaten to disrupt polling

At the end of December the Bangladesh Non-government Primary Teachers Association issued an ultimatum to the government saying that if all primary schools were not taken into the public sector and nationalised by January 30, their members would not work during the forthcoming election as polling officers. The 70,000 primary school teachers, who work in non- government schools and receive about half the salary of their state-school counterparts, staged a three day sit-in outside the National Press Club in Dhaka on December 23 and announced more plans for action in January. Realisation of the teachers' demands would cost Tk1.4bn ($35m).

© 1996 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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