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Cablegate: Senegal's Unions Preparing Multiple Strikes

VZCZCXRO8803
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0534 1291717
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081717Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0455
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS DAKAR 000534

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL/AE AND INR/AA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB SOCI PHUM PGOV PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL'S UNIONS PREPARING MULTIPLE STRIKES

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Fed up with President Abdoulaye Wade's
confrontational attitude and refusal to communicate, Senegal's major
unions are getting ready to strike. The country's main unions are
preparing to hold a general strike, while teacher's unions have just
announced that they will strike for nine days effectively wiping out
the 2008 scholastic year. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) During a meeting of the Central Committee of Senegal's most
powerful union, the National Senegalese Workers Union (CNTS), to
which Poloff was granted access, its leaders gave CNTS chairman Modi
Guiro carte blanche to call a general strike whenever he deemed it
appropriate. During the lively discussion characterized by
passionate speeches, union leaders pledged their support and all
blamed President Wade for his inability to manage the country's
fragile economy and attacked his intransigent attitude towards an
olive branch that Guiro tended to him during a May 1 International
Labor Day speech: "it's a disgrace, he slapped us away with the back
of his hand like we were children" said one indignant leader.

3. (SBU) In a pull-aside after the meeting Guiro was adamant that
the strike would be held sometime in May and that the country would
be brought to a standstill. In an answer to a question about the
timing of a strike, Guiro answered that only a show of force could
bring Wade to the negotiating table: "he has rejected every one of
our demands. I doubt he even read them. We have to take the fight
to streets and then maybe he'll respond." Guiro envisages a one day
strike as a warning to gauge Wade's reactions. If nothing comes of
it, he emphasized that they were prepared to escalate "until the
end." If these strikes are going to be successful it will be vital
for Guiro and his comrades to enlist the support of groups like cab
drivers, truckers, and small-time merchants as well as the powerful
teachers unions, UNSAS.

4. (SBU) In a separate meeting with Elimane Diouf, the
Vice-President of the Confederation of Autonomous Unions (CSA),
Senegal's third most powerful union with representatives in a
variety of sectors, Poloff was told that they too were prepared to
go on strike and would join up with Guiro's CNTS. Diouf was also
critical of Wade's management of the economy, citing in particular
the rising prices for daily commodities and high unemployment. In
the same vein as many the opposition leaders he singled out the cost
of government as the single biggest drain on Senegal's budget.
Diouf argued that Wade needed to cut the number of Ministries by
half and get rid of all national agencies linked to the Presidency.


5. (SBU) In response, Presidential Advisor Boubabcar Ba dismissed
the unions as being under the control of Wade's political rivals and
said that all they wanted was more money. He was particularly
critical of the teachers unions, who have been striking on and off
since October 2007 and are now threatening a nine-day strike that
would effectively render the 2008 scholastic year null and void
("annee blanche"), saying that since Wade came to power their
indemnities have quintupled and that they were trying to get the
most they could before he leaves power. Note: Wade's presidential
term is scheduled run until 2012. End note.

Comment
------Q

6. (SBU) In listening to the union leaders, it seems as if their
problems with Wade have become personal as they feel that he is
totally dismissive of their demands. Wade, for his part, feels that
he is on the right track with new projects to address the country's
economic problems and is accusing opposition leaders of using unions
of fomenting troubles for political gain. Under the current
circumstances it is unlikely that there will be a negotiated
settlement between Wade and the unions and it will remain to be seen
if the unions can truly carry out mass protests and create a
groundswell of opposition. Previous calls from union leaders for
open-ended strikes were short-lived as Wade offered some concessions
on demands and, if rumors are true, some financial benefits to union
leaders.
SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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