Failing to pay employees' salaries and wages because of cash crunch, the authorities of Pabna Sugar Mills gave them sugar against their last three-month dues.
The authorities say they could not pay the dues ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr as a huge quantity of sugar remained unsold.
“We didn't get salaries in the last three months as sugar was not sold from the mill. There is no fund for paying the wages. So, the mill authorities have given them sugar,” said Sajedul Islam Shahin, a mill employee, adding that they were facing the problem for the last couple of years.
Talking to The Daily Star, Jamal Uddin, general manager of Pabna Sugar Mills, said over 767 employees did not get their pay in the last three months.
He said about Tk 2.52 crore was needed to pay their dues, but the mill authorities had not that amount as over 10,000 tonnes of sugar, worth around Tk 3.7 crore, was unsold.
Workers do not have any difficulty in selling the sugar, as the sugar is being sold from the mill gate, Jamal added.
Shahin, also a leader of workers union at the mill, said as per the government fixed rate, price of each 50kg bag sugar was Tk 2,500, but they had to sell it Tk 150-200 less than the government rate.
Of the 10,000 tonnes unsold sugar, the authorities gave their employees over 6,000 tonnes, mill sources said.
Asked about the reason for poor sale of sugar, Tofazzal Hossain, managing director of the mill, said the demand for brown sugar of the state-owned sugar mills decreased as white sugar was cheaper than brown sugar.
He added that he too had to take sugar instead of his dues.