Public sector workers in Chad have been on indefinite general strike since May of this year. This is in protest against the Government’s austerity measures and half pay for civil servants. The strike has closed schools, hospitals and government offices.
Four trade unions have organised the strike since 26 May for full payment of all salaries with no cuts. An agreement had been reached in March which concluded a seven-week strike, but the government did not implement its promises. The June salaries should have been paid in full, but they were not. Since then, negotiations between the trades unions and the government have stopped.
“We cannot accept the cutting of our wages. We should not have to pay the price for bad governance” said Michel Barka, president of the Trades Union Congress of Chad. “the workers have been pushed to the extreme. They even want to stop the minimum service in the hospitals”.
The cuts in salaries were introduced in September 2016 due to the fall in the international oil price. The 92,000 civil servants were only paid half their wages from January 2018. “I will not succeed in making ends meet. Between my rent, my bank loan and food, I must defend myself” grumbled Mahamat Issa Moussa a Chadian teacher.
Like Nigeria, the Government of Chad depends on oil exports for much of its revenue. But one of the key causes of the current crisis in Chad stems from a shady, multi-billion dollar, petrol-backed loan from Swiss Multinational Glencore.
The President gave his personal guarantee that full public sector wages would be reinstated from June. But in May he reversed this decision and said that full salaries would not be reinstated until December. The Government has blocked access to social media for the last five months to try and undermine the strike.
Nathan Bangah Yengding, General Secretary of the Federation of Public Services in Chad said, “We are not demanding a raise. We know that the situation is tough – but all we are asking for is to have our salaries back.”
This is a lesson for the trade unions in Nigeria on how to go. To ensure the payment of backlogs of salaries which go even far beyond when that in Chad started, there is need for mass action, including national strikes and demonstrations.
by Tina NDI