Cablegate: Government Workers Strike Over Cost of Living


DE RUEHBP #0696 1781028
R 271028Z JUN 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Government and some private sector workers went on strike
June 26 to protest the failure to address cost of living and
pay issues agreed to during collective bargaining
negotiations in 2006. The UNTM (National Union of Malian
Workers) called for the two day "warning strike" after
discussions with the Government and private sector managers
left the UNTM leadership convinced the Government was
unwilling to live up to its previous commitments. The
unions have sought clarification of the grade structure
within the civil service (with consequent promotions and pay
raises for many), a careful look at some planned
privatization, and greater price controls on consumer staples
to help control the cost of living.

2. The strike has created very little disruption, with the
exception of airport services. The Airport staffing remains
at "essential personnel only;" the airport director said that
critical flights should still be able to land as scheduled.
Numerous flights have been canceled, with the exception of
the Air France flight, which was reportedly delayed four
hours. Security forces remain on duty and automobile and
motorbike traffic is lighter than usual. All services are
expected to return to normal when the strike ends at midnight
June 27.

3. The UNTM put forth twenty demands and followed up on May
24 with a threat to strike if its demands remained unmet on
the 26th of June (in keeping with Malian law, which requires
several weeks of advanced notification for labor action).
Key elements among the UNTM demands are:

--Various payments for current and former employees, such as
pay raises, payment of salary arrears, termination pay to
those fired through privatization, equalizing the different
rates of pay that currently exist within ministries,
increases in family and other allowances, etc.

--Reduction in taxes on payroll salaries, and lowering
consumer costs for water, electricity, pharmaceuticals,
telephone service, and fuel.

--Price controls for basic food items.

--Greater legal protection for union members and activities

--Accelerated privatization of SOTELMA, the state-owned
telecommunications company.

--A review of the privatization of CMDT, the state-owned
cotton company.

4. UNTM demands for greater legal protections grow out of
allegations that management at some companies, such as
Transrail (privatized in 2004), have physically threatened,
or even fired, workers who engaged in union activities.

5. COMMENT. Strikes are a normal part of Malian life, but
the distinction drawn by the UNTM between SOTELMA and CMDT is
notable. SOTELMA will likely remain intact, minus a
significant reduction in force; the UNTM evidently wants to
move the case forward so workers will no longer be in doubt
about their future. Many fear that the privatization of the
cotton parastatal, CMDT, however, will allow foreign buyers
to scoop up its profitable components, leaving the very
unprofitable but badly needed elements of CMDT, those that
provide direct assistance to cotton farmers, left to wither
on the vine.

© Scoop Media

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