N’DJAMENA, 12 January 2021 – Civil servants in Chad on Tuesday entered Day Two of a three-day nationwide general strike, demanding restoration of salaries and a host of benefits cut four years ago.
The four biggest trade unions of the country called the strike after a meeting of their leaders in the capital, N’Djamena, concluded that the government had no plan to restore salaries, bonuses and other allowances.
The three-day strike is intended as a demonstration of force to the government which trade union leaders blame for the breakdown in negotiations.
The unions also blame Chadian President Idriss Deby for lacking the political will to solve the problem and for delegating to ministers whom he has not authorized to honor earlier promises to restore the salaries and benefits made by the presidency.
Trade unon members who work in essential sectors, like hospitals and other emergency services (ambulance drivers, security officers, fire fightes, etc.) are staying at their desk to provide urgent care and basic service.
The rest of union members are invited to stay at home, said Michel Bakar, a pokesperson for the four unions.
Our members could be called on to take to the streets, Michel Bakar, one of the spokespersons of the unions, told reporters Monday in N’Djamena.
Observers fear that any street protests could degenerate into the kind of violence which hit the country during similar workers’ strike in early 2018.
In January 2018, the Chadian government cut the bonuses and allowances of civil servants by 50 percent.
Those bonuses and allowances had already been cut by 50 percent in 2016, triggering a general strike.
The Chadian government also increased income tax in early 2018 for all salaried workers except for those on a minimum salary.
As part of a total of 16 austerity measures put in place in 2016, trade union officials claim that the average senior-level officer in the Chadian public sector suffered a fall in their salaries of about CFA 100,000 francs (about $230) per month.
We have been patient for four years and it is about time for the government to honor its commitment to restore our salaries once the economy returned to a good footing, Barka told reporters in N’Djamena.
Trade unions point to increased production across several key sectors of the economy to argue that the government has the wherewithals to honor the restoration of salaries and benefits promised.
Chadian grain production rose 1.2 percent in 2019. Cotton production rose 142 percent and the country’s oil production rose by 14 percent to 146,000 barrels a day.
With a population of 15 million, Chad employs a little south of 100,000 public servants – considered high by the government, which has claimed that the public payroll is flooded by ghost public servants.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) expressed grave concern in 2020 over what it called “mounting… socio-economic problems” of Chad.
“Popl;ar discontent appears set to grow as the cost of living in the oil-dependent central African country continues to rise,” the ICG predicted.
The ICG predicted “tougher times ahead” for Chadians after “small economic improvement” in large part because of the drop in international oil prices and the global recession brought about by the new coronavirus.
Unless put off, Chad is due to hold presidential elections during the first half of this year.
Deby, who has been in power for 30 years, is in principle, not expected to seek re-election.