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Workers in Chad Show Fight Against an Increase in the Price of Fuel and Other Issues

D 26 mars 2024     H 12:00     A Drew Povey     C 0 messages

There was a widely supported general strike in Chad that lasted for a month from 20th February, 2024. This was over the military government increasing the price of fuel by 40% in the middle of February and the coming to an end of the three year social pact between some trade unions and the government without many agreed actions having been implemented. Indefinite strikes were also held more briefly in the education and health sectors from mid-March.

Trade unions and civil society called on all workers in both the public and private sectors to stop working in protest against the fuel price increase and the non-implementation of agreed actions by the government. These included payment of transport arrears, registration for social insurance and the end of the freeze on promotions.

The general strike was initially called for six days. On Monday, February 26, the Trade Union offices in N’Djamena, the capital, were boiling with anger. The trade union federations voted to extend the general strike for two more weeks. As this deadline expired, the Federation of Trade Unions of Chad (UST) called for an indefinite general strike from 11th March.

The general strike paralysed economic activities and essential public services such as hospitals, urban transport, schools and local businesses.

"The strike is well followed in the public sector : schools are closed, health centres are closed, public officials have left their workplaces. I believe that the strike is 100% supported by public sector workers.”

BRAHIM BEN SEID, Free Confederation of Workers of Chad.

“It is the poor that suffers the consequences of this price increase. This general strike is nothing other than the result of a unilateral decision by the government which no longer cares about social issues. Today the cities are completely paralyzed, all activities are slowed down and after all it is the average citizen who supports the strike.”

ALLAYANMAL KLADEGUE , Youth citizen movement against the high cost of living – Chad

In addition to the general strike, an indefinite strike was called by SYNTASST, and other trade unions, from the 12th March in the health and education sectors. A total and indefinite national education strike was also called from 15th March by the Teachers Union of Chad (SET). Members of this union had previously been on strike in November and December last year. The government promises that led to the suspension of this strike in early January have also not been implemented. These included the payment of a “dedication bonus", the remainder of transport arrears and the salaries of newly appointed teachers. The teachers strike led by SET was suspended from Thursday, 21st March.

The trade union federations involved in the general strike held a general meeting for their members on Saturday 16 March. Barka Michel, spokesperson for the trade unions said that “The government asked us to suspend the strike and continue negotiations.” After discussions, the meeting decided to continue the indefinite total strike until complete satisfaction of all the trade union demands. “The members decided to continue the total and unlimited strike and we can only stick to that since it is the assembly which decides”, concluded Barka Michel.

Despite this mandate, the trade union leaders held another meeting with the government on Monday, 18th March. As a result of this meeting, the trade unions agreed to suspend their general strike for 10 days at a meeting on Wednesday 20th March.

The government committed to satisfy all their demands by the end of March (except over the price of fuel) including :
1. Payment of salary arrears of the 13th month of 2023
2. Rehabilitation of the 1,300 civil servants presumed to be false graduates with the provision of their real diplomas
3. Full payment in March of the arrears for the reminder of the new recruits
4. Increase in the monthly cost of living allowance in remote/poor areas from 30,000F to 60,000F at the end of this month of March.

Although the trade unions were not able to win their key demand over the increase in the price of fuel they do appear to have won a number of concessions from the government. However, the social pact signed between the government and some trade unions in October 2021 remains to be implemented, the trade union leaders previously stated that “of the 63 points, only 8 are fully implemented and 33 partially implemented”. In addition, the minimum wage has not been increased since 2011.

The first round of the presidential elections are due on 6th May, 2024. It is hoped that the trade unions remain resolute during this time especially with the tensions around the assassination of a leader of the opposition and a number of others on 28th February. Once the current leader (son of the former long-time dictator) is elected president, as expected, it will be more difficult to put the government under pressure.