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Cablegate: General Strike Largely Successful; Negotiations

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¸¸¸|¸¸¸¤¤¤¤¤¤ÿÿÿÿ O 181608Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4387
INFO ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000475

BT
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC ECON ELAB AMGT IV
SUBJECT: GENERAL STRIKE LARGELY SUCCESSFUL; NEGOTIATIONS
WITH GOVERNMENT UNDERWAY

REF: A. ABIDJAN 467
B. ABIDJAN 452
C. ABDIDJAN 214

1. (U) Summary. The members of UGTCI, the country's largest
federation of unions, overwhelmingly observed its call for a
general strike on July 17 and 18 to call for salary increases
in response to the gas price hike, following some initial
confusion. Taxi and mini-bus transporters maintained their
strike throughout the week, to protest increases in gas
prices. The government responded quickly to the strikes by
meeting with union representatives on July 17 and 18. A
meeting of senior government officials, presided over by the
Prime Minister, has been scheduled for July 19 to examine the
situation and make recommendations to an extraordinary
session of the Council of Ministers, presided over by the
President, scheduled for Sunday, July 20.

Union Activity
--------------

2. (U) Strikes in the transport sector in reaction to
increases in gas prices continued on July 17 and 18, mostly
in Abidjan's working class neighborhoods. Representatives of
transportation unions met with President Gbagbo the evening
of July 16 and later called for their workers to return to
work while negotiations with the government were ongoing.
Despite this call most minibus and taxi drivers remained on
strike. There are many transport unions and they are not
unified under a strong confederation. Interior Minister
Tagro reportedly met on July 17 with representatives of
transport worker unions who had not participated in the
meeting with President Gbagbo. Public bus transport remained
available in most parts of the city, except for the Abobo
district where residents physically impeded buses from
entering the zone.

3. (U) The General Union of Workers of Cote d'Ivoire, UGTCI,
general strike was generally observed. (There was some
initial confusion on July 17 due to the fact that the
transport union leaders asked their followers to return to
work.) According to the UGTCI, its call for a strike was
observed by 98 percent of its members in Abidjan and 86
percent outside of the city. Since UGTCI represents workers
in both the public and private sectors, both government
offices and private businesses were affected by the strike.
UGTCI met with Interior Minister Desire Tagro on July 17 and
was to draft concrete proposals that it would present to
Tagro that evening. UGTCI plans to hold a general assembly
on July 19 to assess the results of the strike and decide on
a future course of action.

Government Response
-------------------

4. (U) As with the demonstrations against increases in food
prices (Reftel C), the government has responded quickly. The
Prime Minister was scheduled to have three meetings on July
18; one with consumers' associations; another with the three
confederations of workers' unions, of which UGTCI is one; and
a meeting with all associations of transport vehicle owners
and drivers.

5. (U) A Council of Government meeting, which is presided
over by the Prime Minister and attended by all Ministers and,
as appropriate, by their top aides, has been scheduled for
July 19 to examine strikers' demands. The decisions and
recommendations reached at the Council of Government meeting
will then be examined at a Council of Ministers meeting on
July 20, which is presided over by the President and attended
only by the Prime Minister, Ministers, and the Secretary
General of the government, who acts as notetaker.

6. (SBU) Although the government is eager to see the strikes
end, budgetary constraints will make the salary increases
called for by the UGTCI difficult. Responses that the
government might consider to lessen the effects of the
public's shrinking wallets include an increase in workers'
transportation allowances or other fringe benefits, a small
reduction in the increase of gas prices, or establishment of
a special fund for development of the transport sector.
Abidjan residents are hopeful that the July 19-20 meetings
will result in a solution that all parties can accept.

Security
-------

7. (U) This week's strikes have not been accompanied by
significant violence and major roads have not been blocked.
In some neighborhoods, residents threw rocks at public buses
and taxis that defied the strike, but private vehicles have
been able to circulate without difficulty.
NESBITT

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