Central African Republic: the government must respect the right to strike and respond to union demands through dialogue

published 8 March 2023 updated 14 March 2023

Education International condemns the threats against the leaders of the Central African education unions who have filed a strike notice via a union platform. Threats were also made against non-unionised teachers who joined this action. It urges the competent authorities to engage in negotiations to provide real answers to the legitimate demands of the country's teachers.

Following the announcement made by the teachers' unions’ platform “Primary 1 and 2 and Technical Education Teachers’ Unions’ Dynamic”, composed of the Syndicat National des Enseignants Autonomes de Centrafrique (SYNEAC, a member organisation of Education International-EI), the Syndicat des Travailleurs pour le Développement (STD) and the Fédération de l’Enseignement Technique (FET), that they were to resume their strike, the Minister of National Education, Aboubakar Moukadas Noure, threatened to punish teachers who were not members of these unions and who observed the strike.

At their General Assembly on 4 March at the Bourse de Travail in the capital Bangui, the teachers condemned the remarks by the Minister of Public Service. They also reproached himfor having called them “savages" and “unqualified” during the first days of the strike. They decided to resume their strike for 21 days from 7 March.

“The comments made by the Civil Service Minister about the teachers show a lack of respect. It is this behaviour, especially the pressure that followed, that has pushed us to harden our position. We are therefore going to launch a 21-day strike that will be observed from 7 March”, said Innocent Kéréguelé, coordinator of the union platform created in August 2022.

Background to the union's demands

This is the third time in two months that teachers in the primary 1 and 2 cycles have gone on strike nationwide.

On 23 January, the trade union platform filed a three-day strike notice, but no proposals were put forward for negotiation by the authorities.

Between 31 January and 2 February, the teachers observed a three-day strike, followed by an eight-day strike from 21 to 28 February, still without any positive movement from the government.

While the main demand of the unions is the establishment of a Special Statute for Primary 1, 2 and Technical Education Teachers, they are also demanding:

  • An increase in gross salary (+100%).
  • An increase in the monthly chalk allowance from 5,000 FCFA (equivalent to €7.6), an amount fixed in 1981, to 50,000 FCFA.
  • The creation of new allowances.
  • Improvements in their working conditions.

A memorandum detailing their demands was submitted to the government last year.

The government has put a figure of CFAF 5 billion (€7.6 million) on the total demands and has said it does not have the funds and that foreign donors cannot meet the demands.

The unions explained that while there is a Social Dialogue and Consultation Framework which has set up a ten-member commission (five government representatives and five union representatives), this commission has not set a timetable, so they have no idea how long the negotiations will last.

They also deplored the fact that they had not been contacted after having called for dialogue and negotiations through their strike notices, but instead had simply been invited to return to work without any response to their demands.

They also argued that the strikes were successful and had mobilised teachers in mass throughout the country.

Support from the international education union movement

“Following the latest strike notice, trade unionists have been insulted and threatened with arrest, which is totally unacceptable,” said EI's General Secretary David Edwards.

Recalling that trade union rights are human rights, he went on to demand that they be respected by the Central African public authorities: “The trial of strength between the government and the teachers' unions over the 21-day strike must end, and the government must engage in a real dialogue with the unions representing teachers.”

Edwards also demanded that no sanctions be taken against the union leaders - Guillaume Lebrun Sesse Brassy, General Secretary of SYNEAC, Innocent Kereguele, General Secretary of STD, and Georges Kevin Wikon, General Secretary of FET - or against teachers who are not affiliated to these unions and who observe the strike call.

“We give our full support to the trade unionists and teachers of the Central African Republic, welcome the unwavering solidarity of the Central African trade unions in the current movement and will continue to monitor their situation closely,” he concluded.