Frustration as strike disrupts Gabon Telecom signal
By Issa Sikiti da Silva
Gabon Telecom subscribers continue to recount two days – 25 and 26 February 2015 – of nightmare and frustration during which they were disconnected from the world, as a strike disrupted telephone and internet signals and threw the company’s activities into turmoil.
Mobile signal appears to have been restored on Friday, but international calls and connecting to the internet were still blocked by late Friday.
At the centre of the dispute lies the eternal issue of unpaid bonuses and salary harmonisation, two big problems the union, National Telecommunication Union (SYNATEL), said will continue to tear the company apart as long as the management will not solve them.
Gabon Telecom, previously wholly-owned by the state, was bought by Maroc Telecom in 2007, which merged it with its mobile arm Libertis. In the process, close to 1 000 workers were retrenched, leaving each of the 500 to allegedly perform the work of two people, an issue that angered the union and pushed it to demand extra-pay and bonuses for the remaining workers.
The union also wants all workers Gabon Telecom and Libertis salaries to be at the same level.
The company has since been hit by a series of strikes, with the last having occurred on 13 November 2014 as successive negotiations between the new owners, the Moroccans, and the union failed to lead to something positive.
Words speak louder than words. SYNATEL S-G Martin Essono said all the commitments made by the company have not been implemented despite being brought to the senior management’s attention.
Sensing the seriousness of the problem and perhaps fearing that it might lead to something more radical, President Ali Bongo summoned union leaders to the presidential palace to have a chat with them.
“Total signal will only be restored as soon as our grievances have been attended to,” the union warned.