More than two years after the expiry of its tenure, the committee of the collective bargaining agents (CBA) – a platform of workers and employees at Chattogram Port – has been "illegally" continuing operations, ignoring repeated calls from the labour department to hold the long-overdue elections.
After the expiration of the committee's term on 23 August 2019, the Chattogram Divisional Labour Office says, it is not legal for the CBA to carry out its duties without electing the new executive committee.
On 16 September, the labour office sent its sixth letter to the acting president and general secretary of the expired committee to hold the CBA elections.
It said although five letters had been sent earlier by the labour office, the leaders of the expired committee are buying time on various excuses without holding elections.
One month has passed since the issuance of the sixth letter, the expired CBA committee has not taken any steps to hold the elections.
The Chattogram Port Employees' Council is the only registered trade union of workers and employees at the country's main seaport. In 2010, Mamtaz Uddin and Wahid Ullah Sarkar were nominated as president and general secretary of the organisation for two years but they continued for seven years without holding elections. After that, in the face of workers' movement and pressure, direct elections were held on 24 August 2017.
Several leaders of the expired CBA committee said that out of the 25 members elected last time, the president and three vice-presidents are on post-retirement leave (PRL) at the end of their service.
At present, executive president Mohammad Azim and first joint secretary Nayebul Islam are continuing as acting president and general secretary of the organisation.
On 6 September, a letter signed by 22 members was submitted to the labour office in Chattogram seeking to hold the elections.
Syed Mejbaul Islam, a joint secretary of the CBA's expired committee, said, "Some members of the committee were delaying the election on various pretexts which is unexpected. About 5,000 members want the CBA election to be held soon."
Acting general secretary Nayebul Islam said the election could not be completed due to an inspection by the International Ship and Port Facility Security.
"Again, we had to stay away from the election process following the coronavirus outbreak," he added.
When contacted, SM Enamul Haque, director of the Chattogram Divisional Labour Office, said, "I joined a week ago. Then I took part in the training. So I'm not aware of the issue."