Vol. 4 Num 218 Mon. January 05, 2004  

Strike continues in re-rolling and steel mills
Saifur, millers to settle differences in a week

A meeting between the finance minister and striking re-rolling and steel mill owners yesterday failed to end the strike but decided to resolve the issues within a week.

The meeting entrusted the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) with the responsibility of examining the mill owners' demands and submitting recommendations within three days.

"The government will take decision within a week on the basis of the recommendations," Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman told the meeting.

State Minister for Power Iqbal Hasan Mahmood, commerce secretary, industries secretary, NBR chairman, FBCCI President Abdul Awal Mintoo and representatives of ship-breakers association also attended the meeting held at the NEC conference room.

However, General Secretary of Bangladesh Re-rolling Mills Association (BRMA) Shafiuddin Ahmed said their strike will continue.

Sources said FBCCI will hold separate meetings with the re-rolling mill owners, ship breakers and steel mill owners to discuss the issue.

The steel mill owners went on strike on December 23 and re-rolling mill owners followed them on December 27 to press home nine-point demands that include reduction of duties on raw materials and simplification of regulations for melted steel scrap imports.

They also demand uninterrupted supply of gas and electricity to the mills.

The indefinite strike called by BRMA and Bangladesh Steel Mills Owners Association (BSMOA) shut down production of MS rods and other steel products in their factories hampering construction works in the country.

The BRMA general secretary said the rod manufacturers are being forced to buy raw materials at higher prices due to some restrictions on scrap import and it is not possible for them to run their mills profitably.

The ship-breaking industry, which supply raw materials to re-rolling mills, is also facing a tough time due to global price hike of old ships. Many ship-breaking industries in Sitakunda, Chittagong have already shutdown.

Meanwhile, real estate companies have expressed their concern over the high price of rods. They said rod price has shot up by 40 per cent in recent months.

More than 300 re-rolling and steel mills are capable to meeting 100 per cent domestic demand of MS rods, BRMA sources said.