Cameroon: wildcat strikes win improvements for hospital staff

Douala hospital
Douala hospital

Nurses and other hospital workers have won important concessions after launching a country-wide wildcat strike on Monday

Submitted by jef costello on July 13, 2007

The main demands of the strikers were improved work and living conditions, however there were further demands amongst the three main groups of striking workers.

Public employees: demanding a re-evalutation of their salaries which have not been increased for fourteen years and the right for all employees to retire at 60.

Workers hired using PPTE (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) funds demanded that arrears of up to 16 months in salary be paid immediately, they also demanded that they be integrated as public employees and given the consequent rights.

Temporary workers: they have demanded that their status be regularised.

The strike began with pickets by striking staff, who carried palm leaves as a symbol. In Yaoundé staff blocked the main entrance on Tuesday and strikers began performing the ritual dance of death. The maternity wards and the mortuary have not observed the strike. In casualty doctors are treating patients alone.

Workers agreed to maintain a minimum service, but there were threats that even this might be withdrawn if the government refused to negotiate.

The union of healthcare workers (Synpems) announced that it had reached an agreement with the government and that the strike was suspended and that it would be ordering all workers to return to work from today.

For public workers there was a compromise reached on retirement, however as it is an administrative manoeuvre it is possible for the government to renege at any point. There has been a commitment to speed up the integration of PPTE workers and the governmen has promised that all arrears will be paid by September.

The government has also given undertakings to hire 1650 new workers next year and 3000 the following year with a view to filling the chronic shortage of staff (estimated at 30000) by 2015. No assurances have been given to temporary workers although if the government does create these new positions then they should expect to fill them.

Cameroon's hospitals are chronically under-funded with many of this year's nursing graduates unable to find work except under temporary conditions. Some 50% of Cameroon's hospital workers are employed on temporary contracts.