Transport owners and workers have called off their strike after the government promised to meet their “reasonable” demands.
The government and the protesters made the announcement after a nearly four-hour meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his Dhanmondi home in Dhaka from 9pm on Wednesday.
A network of truck, covered van and goods transport owners and workers started the strike on Wednesday over nine demands, including amendments to the Road Transport Act, which came into effect earlier this month with harsher punishment for drivers for violations of traffic rules and road crashes.
Khan earlier held a meeting with the protesters on Tuesday night but they decided to press on with their programme as the negotiations failed.
Briefing the media after the second meeting at 1:00am on Thursday, the minister said he assured the protesters of accepting their “reasonable” demands. He also promised to meet certain conditions, such as renewal of licences, by June 2020.
The minister said “inconsistencies” in renewal of licences will go away and proper tests will be held to ensure that the eligible drivers can renew licences to drive medium to heavy vehicles.
The authorities will allow the existing licences to be effective until the deadline, the home minister said.
Khan said he would recommend Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader to accept the transporters’ second demand to lower the fines, which is four times the fitness fees, for unfit vehicles.
He will also recommend the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to meet the third demand on technical specifications of vehicle size by the deadline.
The other demands are related to amendments to nine sections of the Road Transport Act.
Law Minister Anisul Huq will look into these demands and the law, Khan said.
“We hope they will withdraw the strike as they’ve agreed to resume services on Thursday,” he said.
The council’s convenor Rustam Ali Khan then announced the withdrawal of the strike, saying the government had accepted their demands.
He said they could not apply for papers from the authorities for “complexities” like fines for not paying taxes.
“We want a waiver on fines, not tax.”
Mohammad Munir, a drivers’ leader, said they have been “forced to call the strike”.
The minister also said the protesters sought instructions on parking and other facilities like resting places, which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already talked about.
“We are recommending these issues to the transport ministry.”
Bus services disrupted
In the beginning of the meeting, Minister Khan noted that besides officials and the goods transporters, a representative of the public transporters, Bangladesh Transport Owners Association secretary general Khandaker Enayet Ullah, was also present.
Bus workers abstained from work on their own for three days and blockaded roads in parts of the country disrupting transport services.
Leaders of bus owners and workers said the protesters were not paying heed to their orders as they demanded amendments to the new law.
Enayet did not talk to the media after the meeting with the home minister, but earlier he had said the bus workers’ issue would depend on it.
Shajahan Khan, former minister and president of Bangladesh Transport Workers Federation, said they would sit on Thursday to specify their demands on amendments to the new law.