Gabon Telecom, union showdown far from over

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

The showdown between Gabon Telecom (GT) and SYNATEL, the union of telecommunication workers, goes unabated and is far from over despite
the court’s warning and the government’s intervention.

The union, which kicked off an industrial action last month, seems to have sharpened its spear and has now gone on the offensive, accusing
the government of protecting Moroccan interests at the expense of Gabon citizens.

GT workers have embarked on an unlimited strike that in late February disrupted internet and telephone signals in the capital Libreville.
International calls on the GT network were also disrupted early this month, a hiccup the management attributed to ‘sabotage’.

At the centre of the dispute lie several demands, including unpaid bonuses, GT and Libertis’ salaries harmonisation and 5% of the
company’s shares to be transferred to workers, among others.

On Sunday, SYNATEL S-G Martin Essono told the media that GT management continues to ignore these demands.

“Nobody is doing anything about of the stubbornness of Gabon Telecom management, and the government has abandoned us because we have
attacked the nerve centre of Moroccan interests in this country,” he said.

While the dispute seems to have so far been focused mostly on the issues of unpaid bonuses and salaries’ harmonisation, another burning
issue has now come to the fore: GT must hand over 5% of shares to the staff.

Essono explains: ‘When Maroc Telecom took over Gabon Telecom in 2007 and merged it with mobile operator Libertis, it was agreed that 5% of
the company ownership will be given to the staff after one year of the transaction.”

But Essono regrets that eight years later, nothing has been done about the promise, which he says violates the ‘Pacte d’Actionnaires’
(Shareholders’ Agreement), the privatisation document signed by all parties at the time of the operation.

“The state of Gabon owns 44% of shares in Gabon Telecom, not 49%,” Essono charged, wondering why the company has not handed over the
outstanding 5% ownership to workers since 2008.

“The government and Maroc Telecom have made many mistakes in this transaction, and now they must pay dearly for those mistakes,” Essono
said.

GT management and the government have yet to give their side of the story about these new developments.

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