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Cablegate: Increasing Union Activity: Private Sector Union

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000342

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR DRL/IL (MHARPOLE)
LABOR FOR DOL/ILAB (TFAULKNER)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PHUM PGOV SOCI CG
SUBJECT: INCREASING UNION ACTIVITY: PRIVATE SECTOR UNION
ELECTIONS AND A CIVIL SERVICE CENSUS

1. (U) Summary. The DRC labor sector is facing two key
events in 2005: union elections and a civil census. Vice
President Z'ahidi N'goma and the National Labor Council
authorized labor union leadership elections in April 2004.
The Ministry of Labor is attempting to organize these
elections from February-April 2005 with the help of the
International Labor Organization. Some union officials
believe strikes are likely to be used to gain support for
particular candidates and unions. Already three strikes,
though unrelated to the elections, are ongoing. The civil
service census, even with foreign assistance from South
Africa, has been slow to start and likely will be slow to
finish. The GDRC is unlikely to be able to meet any of the
unions' key demands due to budgetary constraints. End
summary.

First Union Elections since 2002
---------------------------------------

2. (U) After receiving authorization from Vice-President
N'goma and the National Labor Council in April 2004, the
Ministry of Labor - with International Labor Organization
assistance - is organizing labor union elections to take
place from February to April 2005. This will be the first
time since 2002 that labor union elections have been held.
These elections will involve almost all unions - including
large umbrella unions - and will focus not only on
individual labor leadership, but also will serve to elect
the Congolese union and representative to represent the DRC
at the 2005 International Labor Conference in Geneva,
Switzerland.

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3. (U) Union sources told EconFSN that some unions are
planning strikes as a way to show their strength and gain
support before the elections, particularly because of the
opportunity to elect representatives to the International
Labor Conference. Currently, three different strikes not
connected to labor union elections are underway. Public
school teachers, public hospital nurses (septel), and the
Customs authority (OFIDA) are all striking for increased
pay.

4. (U) The Catholic Church and National Episcopal Bishop
Conference (CENCO) decided in January 2005 to halt the
requirement that parents pay $50-$150 each semester to
supplement teachers' salaries in all church-supported
schools. These payments are called "frais de motivation," or
motivation payments, and they are a heavy burden on the
yearly income of the average Congolese. These fees were
informally imposed on parents during the past 10 years due
to the government's inability to pay adequate salaries. The
GDRC has not committed to covering the "frais de
motivation," and hence, teachers started to strike Feb 14 to
influence the government to pay their salaries. Teachers'
unions extended their current strike for one week starting
February 21 to put more pressure on GDRC to commit to pay
teachers' salaries.

5. (U) DRC's customs authority (OFIDA) notified the Ministry
of Finance one month ago that they would strike if the GDRC
did not pay promised performance premiums and implement a
salary increase by mid-February. The GDRC did not respond,
prompting OFIDA employees to stop all activities on February
14. OFIDA officials told econ-FSNs that the Ministry of
Finance agreed to talks with OFIDA, but formal negotiations
have not yet commenced and the strike continues. The company
is providing minimal service to clear only perishable goods
through customs.

Civil Service Reform
-------------------------

6. (SBU) The GDRC has been trying since 2004 to conduct a
census of civil servants in order to weed out ghost workers
and have an accurate number of employees so some can be
retired and others properly paid. The Secretary General of
the National Union for Civil Servants (Synafet) told the
Congolese press that the GDRC last year planned to work with
Belgium's bilateral aid agency to conduct a civil service
census. No progress was made with the Belgians, hence the
GDRC has approached South Africa for funds and technical
expertise. The South African government promised
approximately USD 3 million plus equipment and technical
assistance.

7. (U) On February 3-5, the South African Minister of Civil
Service visited Kinshasa to formalize the agreement. The DRC
Minister of Civil Service told the Congolese press that he
plans to start the census in February 2005 in Kinshasa
(where 50 percent of the civil service is located) and
finish in March. The DRC ministry of civil service hired 964
census takers and trained them from February 14-16. The
Minister of Civil Service had announced that the census
takers could perform a test case of the census at the
Ministry of Finance, and it began on February 24.

8. (SBU) As of Feb 23, however, a representative of an
American IT corporation asked by the Ministry of Civil
Service to work with the South Africans on database
development for the census told econoff that it is unclear
when the census will take place. The Minister of Civil
Service is still debating whether to start the census only
in Kinshasa or try to branch out into the interior and do
the entire civil service census in one attempt.

9. (U) A civil service census is needed in part to complete
salary negotiations, which have been stalled since March
2004. Union representatives told EconFSN that union leaders
are uncomfortable with the current pace of reform and
negotiation. If the census is completed in March, there will
only be a limited amount of time to negotiate salaries
before the national elections. Union leaders are worried
that if negotiations are not finished, they will have to
start from the beginning with the new government.

Comment
------------

12. (SBU) No matter how often the unions strike, the
government will not be able to meet their demands. The GDRC
2005 budget is already under revision with the goal of
cutting spending, and civil servant salaries are on the
chopping block. End comment.

MEECE

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