Shipping minister Shajahan Khan, who often created controveries by exerting influence in transport and labour sectors, is now making intervention in the banking sector.
He is scheduled to hold a meeting with members of Bangladesh Bank Employees Union, commonly known as CBA leaders, to discuss 'the overall situation of the sector'.
Some bankers have expressed their concern over the minister's move, saying that this is an ominous sign, especially at a time when the banking sector is in dire straits.
Officials concerned said the CBA (collective bargaining agent) leaders who would attend the two-day meeting, would be given conveyance and daily allowances, according to an order issued by the central bank.
The presence of 18 CBA leaders at the meeting will also be considered as onduty hours.
“I've never heard of anything like this in my 25 years of career. Employee unions will do their activities independently. How can giving rumuneration for that and their attending of meeting be considered as working hours? It's really a wild imagination!" said former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank Khandakar Ibrahim Khaled.
“It makes us understand where the regulatory institution is heading for?” he added.
According to the central bank order, shipping minister Shajahan Khan will hold a views exchange meeting at the central bank’s CBA office on 15 and 16 November.
The order said the CBA leaders will be exempted from the official duty from 14 November to 17 November.
The 18 officers from Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Bogra, Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur will be entitled to such privileges. They are either the central bank’s regional committee’s president or secretaries.
Former caretaker government adviser and member of Transparency International Banhladesh (TIB) trustee board, M Hafizuddin Khan said, “It’s illegal. They can get the allowances only if they attend any Bangladesh Bank programme. Who is shipping minister to brief them on the banking sector?”
“I saw CBA was used to be involved in fishy acts. I can’t understand why Bangladesh Bank has taken such decision,” he added.
The order giving the privilege was issued after its approval from the deputy governor concerned, SM Moniruzzaman, and also from the governor, Fazle Kabir, some BB officials confirmed.
Deputy governor SM Moniruzzaman did not respond to any phone call and query through texted messages.
Bangladesh Bank’s human resource division’s deputy governor Abu Hena Mohammad Razi Hassan told Prothom Alo that he had no knowledge of the matter as he was on leave.
Md Yunusur Rahman, secretary of the finance ministry’s financial institution division, told Prothom Alo over phone that he is not fully aware of the matter. He still observed that he even could not understand as to why the shipping minister would brief the employees of the central bank.
In July this year, the state-owned Rupali Bank authorities dismissed the bank’s employee union (CBA) president, the general secretary and an office assistant for assaulting its employees at a local branch.
The bank authorities also dismissed another employee and transferred four other CBA members to different branches out of Dhaka.
Following the incident, on 15 October, shipping minister Shajahan Khan met the Rupali Bank authorities and asked them to come to certain compromise with the CBA leaders.
“If we go to the roots of the matter, many things will be revealed about many persons,” the minister said during the discussion with bank authorities at that time.
“Everyone knows what happened to the chief justice. Resolve the problems with the CBA leaders respectfully or else you may face trouble,” Shajahan reportedly added.
The minister, who is executive president of Bangladesh Roads Transports Employee Federation, faced huge criticism for his role in a rally in support of the transport workers who were being tried in a Manikganj road accident. Filmmaker Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier were killed in that accident.
The minister then extended his hands in the export-oriented readymade garments sector. A ‘Garments Workers Coordination Parishad’, led by him, was formed in 2013.
*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.