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Cablegate: Burundi Strikes Out: Teachers Walk, Nurses May

R 291535Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1752
INFO AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM
AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
AMEMBASSY KIGALI
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI

UNCLAS BUJUMBURA 000523


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV BY
SUBJECT: BURUNDI STRIKES OUT: TEACHERS WALK, NURSES MAY
FOLLOW

1. Burundi's secondary school teachers went on strike
September 28, joining primary school teachers who have been
on strike since September 18, to demand a salary increase and
harmonization of their pay scales with other government
employees. The Minister of Civil Service asked the teachers
to be patient, citing Ministry of Finance claims that the USD
46 million needed to harmonize salaries simply didn't exist
(the government having budgeted only USD 10 million for this
purpose). The Secondary School Teachers' Union (known by its
French acronym CONAPES) insisted that its members would not
return to work until their demands are satisfied.

2. The roots of the current dispute go back several years.
The previous government ended a prolonged work stoppage in
2003 by promising to augment and regularize teachers' pay.
This agreement has yet to be implemented. Current President
Nkurunziza rubbed salt in the wound shortly after his 2005
election by increasing the salaries of magistrates and
policemen by a rumored 300-400 percent -- creating a
multi-tier civil service that continues to fester with
resentment. This has led to recurrent strikes in other
sectors such as health, which was paralyzed by a series of
doctors' and nurses' strikes in the first half of 2009. The
nurses have threatened to strike again in the near future.

3. Civil society organizations, the Students' Parents
Association, traditional leaders, and even the President's
own Economic and Social Council have all called on the
government to implement an impartial and transparent salary
scale across the civil service. Since prospects for short
term relief seem dim, strike activity is expected to continue.


Twining

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