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Cablegate: Teacher's Strike Peters Out

VZCZCXRO7301
RR RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1462 2621149
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191149Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4808
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001462

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV SOCI CG
SUBJECT: TEACHER'S STRIKE PETERS OUT

Ref: 05 KINSHASA 1934

1. (U) Summary. The DRC's public school teachers' strike has ended
after just two weeks, and students are slowly returning to school as
of September 18. Teachers were on strike in several parts of the
DRC to press for increased salaries and benefits, but realized it is
unlikely the current lame duck GDRC has the capacity or will to meet
teachers' demands. Thus, the unions have said they will wait for the
installation of a new Parliament before making their demands again.
End summary.

2. (U) September 17, the two major teachers' unions, SYECO and
SYNECAT (Catholic school teachers), have called off the strike they
announced in August 29, saying they will wait for the new government
to be installed before pressing their demands. Primary, secondary
and professional public school teachers in Kinshasa, Equateur,
Bandundu, Eastern and Western Kasai, South Kivu and Bas Congo
provinces went on strike September 4, the opening day of the
2006-2007 academic year, after SYECO and SYNECAT had announced the
strike to protest the GDRC's failure to raise teachers' salaries and
guarantee them pensions and other benefits.

3. (U) The teachers were demanding increases in part because of the
GDRC's and Catholic Church's August 2005 call to end "motivation
fees," although the GDRC did not as clearly make that call this
academic year. (Note: Motivation fees are monthly payments that
parents make to teachers to supplement salaries. End note.) In
2005, teachers went on strike for nearly five weeks, ending only
after the strikes began causing civil disorder and the GDRC agreed
to effectively double salaries through December 2005 (reftel).
However, in January 2006, teachers' salaries returned to their
original, pre-strike levels.

4. (U) This year's strike never gained much momentum; the unions
apparently realized that the transitional government lacks the funds
and the political will to meet the teachers' requests. Publicly, the
unions demanded that the GDRC raise salaries to at least USD 208,
the minimum civil servant salary agreed on between Vice President
Z'ahidi Ngoma and all labor unions in 2004 in the so-called Mbudi
Accord. (Note: The GDRC never ratified this agreement, and both the
GDRC and the IMF have repeatedly said that the DRC budget would not
support Mbudi's salary increases. End note.) Privately, however, the
unions admitted even at the outset that they were willing to accept
a smaller salary increase. Teachers in Kinshasa currently earn about
USD 50 to USD 73 per month, while outside Kinshasa monthly salaries
average USD 34 to USD 41.

5. (U) Given the probable failure of the strike, some teachers
almost immediately ignored it, in part because many parents were
willing to pay the motivation fees, despite the GDRC's call to end
them. In Western and Eastern Kasai and South Kivu, teachers
suspended the strike after just one week. The strike never even
began in some eastern and central Congo areas, including Gbadolite,
Equateur province; Lubumbashi and Kalemie in Katanga province;
Bukavu, South Kivu; Goma and Butembo, North Kivu; and Kindu, Maniema
province. According to Congolese media sources, these teachers
refused to strike because they believed that only Kinshasa teachers
would receive any salary increases or other benefits as a result. In
Kisangani, Orientale province, the governor pushed back the school
opening date to September 18 in an effort to avoid a strike.

6. (U) Students are already slowly returning to public schools
nationwide. In Kinshasa at least some schools are back in session as
of September 18, while in Mbuji-Mayi, students have gone back to
school but are waiting for their teachers to return. In Kananga, a
school inspector told Econ LES that about one half of the public
schools are in session.

7. (U) Comment. The quickly terminated strike is yet another example
of the holding pattern in which the DRC finds itself until the
installation of a new government. However, the line of groups and
persons who are waiting to lodge requests for salary increases and
governmental support is growing steadily longer. Many in this queue
will be disappointed that in the short-term, the GDRC will not have
any greater resources to meet these needs than it currently has.
End comment.
MEECE

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