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Cablegate: Strike Announced for July 31

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAB #0493/01 2071544
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251544Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4411

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000493

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC ECON ELAB AMGT IV
SUBJECT: STRIKE ANNOUNCED FOR JULY 31

REF: A. ABIDJAN 480
B. ABIDJAN 475
C. ABIDJAN 467
D. ABIDJAN 452

1. (SBU) Summary. The Union of General Workers of Cote
d'Ivoire (UGTCI) has rejected as insufficient the economic
measures enacted by the government on July 20 in response to
the UGTCI's July 17-18 general strike and widespread
discontent among transporters and consumers. The UGTCI has
called for another general strike starting on July 31 unless
the government responds to its demands, which include further
cuts in the price of petrol, reductions in the price of basic
commodities, and increases in salaries. President Gbagbo's
strong reaction to a statement issued on July 18 by an
umbrella group of major opposition political parties
criticizing his handling of the country's economic situation
has increased rumors of a Cabinet reshuffle. End Summary.

2. (U) UGTCI on July 23 rejected as insufficient the economic
measures enacted by the government on July 20 in response to
UGTCI's July 17-18 general strike (See Reftels A, B, and C).
UGTCI announced that it will call for another general strike
starting on July 31 and continuing for an indefinite period
unless the government responds to its demands. The UGTCI is
now respecting the legal requirement of 6 days of notice of a
strike which it did not observe when it called for a strike
on July 17-18.

3. (U) Although the government announced reductions in diesel
and lamp oil, UGTCI is calling for deeper cuts in both
gasoline and diesel prices. UGTCI wants a reduction in the
price of unleaded gas, which the government did not lower, to
USD 1.60 (670 CFA) a liter from USD 1.90 (CFA 785). UGTCI
wants diesel to be further reduced from USD 1.65 (CFA 685) to
USD 1.55 (CFA 650) a liter and lamp oil further reduced from
USD 1.19 (CFA 495) to USD 1.17 (CFA 490).

4. (U) The government increased the transport allowance of
civil servants from USD 4.83 (CFA 2000) to USD 16.90 (CFA
7000) in the cities of Abidjan and Bouake and to USD 12.07
(CFA 5000) in other locations (See Reftel A). UGTCI is
calling for an increase in the transportation allowance for
the public sector nationwide to USD 48 (CFA 20000) and in the
private sector to USD 84 (CFA 35000) in Abidjan, USD 60 (CFA
25000) in Bouake and USD 38 (CFA 16000) in other locations.

5. (U) UGTCI is demanding a 44 percent increase in the
private sector wage and an increase in the minimum wage from
USD 84 (CFA 35000) to USD 288 (CFA 120000) a month. In
addition, UGTCI has called for application of a previously
reached agreement that taxi and mini bus drivers' salaries
will be USD 170 (CFA 71000). They have also called for an
increase in the family allowance allotted monthly per child
to public servants to USD 24 (CFA 10000) from USD 6 (CFA
2500), the elimination of taxes on pensions, and the decrease
in prices for cooking gas, sugar, rice, meat and fish.

6. (SBU) Since May, the President has held preliminary talks
regarding increases in salaries and benefits with the three
main labor confederations of unions, of which UGTCI is one,
without reaching any agreement. While the government's rapid
enactment of measures in response to the strikes by UGTCI and
transport workers the week of July 14 demonstrates the
importance it places on avoiding social unrest in this
electoral year, it will be difficult for it to accede to
UGTCI's demands. The government faces a rough cash flow
situation and the budgetary impact of the measures already
enacted is serious.

7. (SBU) President Gbagbo reacted strongly to the July 18
statement issued by RHDP, the umbrella group of major
opposition political parties, which criticized Gbagbo's
indifference towards the economic difficulties faced by
Ivorians and characterizing the government's increase in gas
prices as inexplicable since the country produces oil and gas
(See Reftels A and D). During a July 22 audience with
representatives of the city of Vavoua, Gbagbo said it is
inappropriate for members of the government to criticize the
actions taken by the government since they are a part of it.
He noted that he has made his displeasure with this practice
known to the Prime Minister. Gbagbo's comments have fueled
rumors that have been circulating for weeks of a Cabinet
reshuffle. Widely circulated rumors indicate Prime Minister
Soro has resisted the President's push for such a reshuffle.
RHDP members are scheduled to meet on July 25 in Daoukro, the
hometown of former President and PDCI party leader Henri
Konan Bedie.

8. (SBU) Comment. One reason for the President to be
committed to respecting the November 30 presidential election
date is that, if he were to win the election, he would then
be free to form a government composed of persons who are
members of his political party or who are loyal to him. The
somewhat embarrassing turnabout on the fuel prices rise in
the face of widespread opposition and the evident
ineffectiveness of Ministers from the President's FPI party
and the Prime Minister's FN movement charged with managing
the fuel price rise (Bouabre at Planning - FPI, Monnet at
Energy - FPI, Diby at Finance - FPI leaning, and Soumahoro at
Commerce - FN) give credence to reports of Gbagbo's
frustration with the roster of his current Ministers. End
Comment.
AKUETTEH

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