Md. Worked as a bus driver’s assistant (helper) for a long time. Sanay. His home is in Kendua, Netrokona. He was returning to Netrokona by bus from Chittagong on February 1. He died on the spot in a head-on collision with a truck in Kendua.
Not only Sanjay, many transport workers die in accidents in the country every year. According to a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS), transport workers are at the top of the list of people killed in accidents at work. In 2020, 629 workers died in accidents at work in the country. Of these, 348 are from the transport sector.
The Bills report, released on January 10, says that the number of deaths of transport workers in the previous years, except 2020, was on the rise. In 2019, 517 transport workers died at work. In 2017, 424 people died and in 2016, 249 transport workers died in the workplace.
The Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association publishes a report on road accidents every year. According to them, 1,845 people were killed in road accidents across the country in 2020.
According to the road sector workers’ organizations, about 6 million workers are involved in transport operations in the country. There are 249 registered transport workers’ organizations in the country. There are owners’ associations in the terminals of 64 districts and big cities. Besides, big transport companies are also members of the owners’ association. In some districts there are more than one committee of employers and workers. There are allegations that these committees are involved in extortion in many places. Apart from this, extortion took place in various undeclared places including ferries and toll plazas. In all, about two thousand crore rupees is collected annually for the welfare of the owners and workers. But when injured and killed, the family of the worker does not get much help from anyone. Due to the increase in corona infection, the traffic has been stopped for two months last year and this time for about a month. As a result, the most affected transport workers. No one is coming forward especially with their help.
Under the Road Transport and Labor Act, it is mandatory for a worker to have an appointment letter. But in Bangladesh, 99 percent of workers in the transport sector do not have a job, according to trade unions. For this they do not get proper compensation if they are injured or killed.
In this regard, Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, told Prothom Alo that the owners do not give appointment letters. The government also does not force the owners. As a result, if a worker is injured or killed, he has to collect a nominal amount of compensation from the owners. He demanded that the workers’ organization should not help the workers in difficult times, they should try to help as much as possible. However, if the government does not help, it will not get an institutional form.
More deaths in the construction sector after transportation
The construction sector is at the forefront of deaths in workplace accidents after transportation. According to Bills, 64 construction workers died in accidents while on their way to work last year. In 2019 this number was 134. In 2016 and 2017, there were 161 and 134 people respectively.
In addition, six agricultural workers died in accidents at work last year. At the same time, 49 day laborers, 35 from the power sector, 28 from the fisheries sector, 15 from the steel sector, 15 from the shipping sector, 14 from the mechanics, 15 from the migrant workers and 60 more workers from different sectors died, according to the research report.
Shirin Akhtar, general secretary of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) central committee and a member of parliament, told Prothom Alo that many workers die in the workplace every year. They are being deprived of fair rights. Most workers work in the informal sector. The employer does not care about the workers. There is no alternative to changing the mindset of employers as well as making workers more aware to avoid untimely deaths.
316 workers died due to torture
The Bills report further states that in addition to accidents at work, workers are constantly being tortured. Last year, 316 workers died as a result of torture in the country. Another 229 people were injured. And 24 workers have committed suicide.
In 2019, 1,292 workers died as a result of torture at work, Bills said. Of these, 332 were killed and 26 committed suicide. And in 2016, 64 workers died due to torture. Of these, 269 were killed. 31 workers committed suicide.
Naimul Ahsan Jewel, general secretary of the National Workers Alliance of Bangladesh, told Prothom Alo that workers are constantly being tortured and dying in accidents at work. Workers who die in work and road accidents do not receive financial compensation. Their family members are sitting on the road. There is no one to see the workers. There is no government initiative in the interest of the workers.