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Strike paralyses Niger’s capital

category west africa | workplace struggles | other libertarian press author Sunday June 25, 2006 13:55author by International Striker Report this post to the editors

Over high cost of living

Quiet fell over the Niger capital of Niamey on Thursday 22 June 2006, as labour unions called a national strike over the high cost of living.

Quiet fell over the Niger capital of Niamey on Thursday 22 June 2006, as labour unions called a national strike over the high cost of living. Only the banks and large private companies opened as most of the capital's residents stayed home. Quiet fell over the Niger capital of Niamey on Thursday 22 June 2006, as labour unions called a national strike over the high cost of living. Only the banks and large private companies opened as most of the capital's residents stayed home.

«Niamey has lost its daily vibrancy, the roads are practically deserted, even those who wanted to go out today have had to stay at home as taxi drivers have heeded the call [to strike]. We are very satisfied that the population of Niamey has heeded the call», said strike organiser Moussa Idrissa.

A coalition of workers' unions have come together under the banner «fairness, quality and the fight against the high cost of living». They say that the economic policies of the government are putting basic utilities such as water and electricity out of the reach of most Nigeriens.

Niger is the world's poorest country, according to the UN's Human Development Index. Average life expectancy is 44 years and only 14 percent of the adult population can read and write. The workers' coalition is demanding that the government reduce electricity, water and telephone tariffs by between 30 and 50 percent.

The strike follows recent demonstrations at Niamey University where students have accused the government of embezzling funds intended for their studies. In nearby Guinea, workers unions brought the country to a standstill for over a week after labour unions there demanded the government increase public sector wages and reduce rice and fuel prices.

The strike achieved a partial success, forcing down rice prices and winning salary rises of up to 25 percent for some civil servants; but the government held firm on fuel prices. And this week, in Guinea Bissau, government workers went on strike over the non-payment of their wages for three months.

In Niger, a call by the governor of Niamey late on Wednesday for residents to ignore the strike went unheeded. Security forces patrolled the empty streets of the capital and some of the city's suburbs. There were no reports of violence. Last year the workers' coalition called thousands of people onto the streets to protest a new 19 percent value added tax (VAT) on goods and services.

Protests paralysed the capital for a month and forced the government to increase wages for 40,000 civil servants by 10 percent.

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