Gabon Telecom striking employees threaten disruption
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Gabon
Gabon Telecom employees who have been on strike since last week over pay increases, bonuses and housing allowances, are now threatening to disrupt the company operations, which include supplying the internet, mobile and landline telephone, if their demands are not met soon.
“We can paralyse this country because we have the power and our struggle is justified,” one striking worker said in the capital Libreville.
The saga began in 2007 when Maroc Telecom bought Gabon Telecom and merged it with Libertis. This paved the way to a major downsizing which saw 1 200 workers being laid off. Only 500 were allowed to stay behind.
Subsequently, the unions and the company management made a deal to increase wages and pay more money in bonuses for the "excessive workload' carried by the 500 workers. But the union claims that the company just overlooked the deal agreed between the two parties.
According to the union, one worker was supposed to get 1-million FCFA (about US$2 000) in accumulative amounts, but this has never happened.
Union officials said only the full amount of what the company owes to the workers will make them happy and will persuade them to go back to work.
Panic is already gripping the company’s subscribers in the capital Libreville, many of whom are calling for a peaceful solution.
"I urge the two parties to negotiate in good faith and compromise to find a peaceful settlement because disrupting the services will not solve the problem," Huguette Monkou said.
“We cannot afford to see workers disrupt the internet and landline services because it will kill our business, and affect our operations,” said entrepreneur Christian Nzonzi.
Gabon Telecom, which claims to be Africa's first 4G network, is one of the most vital internet provider in this Central African oil-rich nation.