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Cablegate: Cote D'ivoire: Physicians Strike

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAB #0969 2571718
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141718Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3534
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0465
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0850
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000969

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W-EPLUMB AND INR/AA-BGRAVES, PARIS FOR GD'ELIA
AND RKANEDA, LONDON FOR RBELL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV IV
SUBJECT: COTE D'IVOIRE: PHYSICIANS STRIKE


1. Public sector physicians were on strike September 4-13,
demanding a two-fold wage increase. Responding to pressure
from the government and public, the leader of the doctors'
union (Syndicat des Cadres Superieurs de la Sante de Cote
d'Ivoire - SYNACASS/CI) announced an eight-day suspension of
the strike on September 13. The strike had shut down public
health facilities, including emergency rooms, nationwide.
Previously, the union went on a short-lived strike in August
2007 and reached agreement with the government to discuss
salary demands by September 15.

2. While the physicians' main concern is a rise in salary, a
union dispute also contributed to the strike. On September
3, the union's Secretary General, Dr. Magliore Amichia, was
dismissed by the Court of Abidjan and replaced by a temporary
administrator. The court took this action in a bid to
resolve the union's leadership crisis, brought about when a
faction broke away on April 7. The breakaway faction, led by
Dr. Adama Sanogo, accused Amichia of violating union rules by
serving as advisor to the Presidency. Amichia in turn
accused the dissidents of seeking to expropriate land the
union acquired years ago. SYNACASS/CI, which represents
pharmacists, physicians, and veterinarians, began striking
September 4 to demonstrate its opposition to the court's
decision.

3. The government angrily announced on September 9 that the
strike was illegal because the union had not provided 6 days
notice as required by law. The government called on
physicians to return to work while it reviewed their salary
demands. The Appeals Court of Abidjan lifted union leader
Amichia's suspension on September 10 while it considers the
case. The Appeals Court is expected to render its verdict by
September 20.

4. Responding to the crisis, Labor Minister Hubert Oulaye
warned on September 12 that physicians who did not resume
work would have their salaries cut off. Most Ivorians cannot
afford private medical care and receive medical care at
public hospitals. As a result of the strike, the Abidjan
Military Hospital has been overwhelmed by the number of
patients. There are no official statistics regarding deaths
caused by the strike, but the press and media have reported
that persons have died in the intensive care and emergency
units due to the unavailability of doctors.

5. Workers, including other civil servants, have staged
several strikes in recent months, arguing that their wages
have been eroded by the increase in the cost of living.
Demands for bribes from truck drivers and other types of
corruption have pushed up the price of food and other
essential goods. Ivorian consumers are accustomed to price
controls, which have kept some prices on imported goods
artificially low. Lax enforcement of price controls coupled
with new fiscal charges have also resulted in prices rising.
Finance Minister Charles Koffi Diby told consumers'
associations September 12 that the government will announce
measures to stabilize prices, including an 18 percent VAT
freeze on essential products such as rice, milk, and cooking
oil.
AKUETTEH

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