CAMEROON-BURKINA FASO: Support staff protests

Non-teaching staff on fixed contracts at the University of Douala in Cameroon, and technical and support workers throughout Burkina Faso, went on strike last month over conditions of employment. reported that a letter from Douala's rector, Bruno Bekolo Ebe, was apparently the "drop of water too much" that incited the university's short-term contract workers to anger and action.

The letter informed them their contracts were expiring and invited them to reapply if they hoped to continue working at the university.

Quotidienmutations said some of the staff had worked at the university for 10 years. All of them condemned the method of recruitment, and to put an end to their fear of losing their jobs they were demanding integration as permanent staff.

The paper quoted Rodrigue Bissaya, one of the protesters, who said: "In the past, our work contract was renewed every six months. Now, we have to put together recruitment applications four times a year."

The workers' anxiety was increased by a note in the rector's letter that priority would be given to students.

Other grievances included their low pay. "We receive a salary of FCFA34,500 (US$75) instead of FCFA50,000 like all the other state universities," Bissaya said. "The management is also intending to end the campus police. These workers who were paid FCFA74,500 will, as a result of this action, get [a payoff of] FCFA50,000 when it takes effect."

Receiving no reply to 'numerous letters' sent to the institution's administation, the workers blocked the university's three entrances for nearly four hours, preventing students and lecturers from entering the campus.

Meanwhile, technical and support staff at public universities throughout Burkina Faso went on strike for 48 hours demanding improvement of their living and working conditions, and to protest against lack of action by the authorities following claims their union Synatosus had submitted in January, reported Le Pays of Ouagadougou.

Lecture rooms and offices were inaccessible at the University of Ouagadougou because of a sit-in called by Synatosus, said the paper. The union's Secretary-General, Aristide Zoungrana, stressed that the strike was the consequence of the authorities' silence since the claims were submitted.

Demands included housing and other allowances. The state denied the technical and support workers were eligible for 'academic' allowances because they did not carry out research - an assertion Synatosus rejected. The union also claimed the right for the workers to transfer between universities, said Le Pays.

Zoungrana said the union action would continue; if the government continued to ignore the workers' concerns it would find lecturers and students on its back. The immediate consequence of the strike would be closure of lecture halls to the detriment of students. He called for dialogue with the government to avoid losing the current university year.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original report.