Saturday 17 February 2018

Public sector workers strike in Benin over right to strike

Public sector workers strike in Benin over right to strike
(AFP (eng) 01/17/18)

Civil servants in Benin walked out on Wednesday, calling for the repeal of a new law banning them from taking industrial action.

The three-day strike, called for by seven trade unions representing public sector workers in areas such as health and the justice system, began on Tuesday.

Many courts, schools and medical clinics in the country's commercial capital, Cotonou, were deserted as a result, according to AFP reporters in the city.

In response, the government attempted to get workers back at their posts but union leaders said the tactic had not worked and the strikers had held firm.

Benin's parliament last month approved the controversial law to prevent the military, police, health and justice workers from going on strike.

The law still needs to be validated by the country's constitutional court.

The head of one union representing court workers, Kuassi Cakpo Besse, told AFP the court could save workers from the "oppressive" law.

"If the court approves it, we will have to go against its decision. We'll use any means to fight for the right to keep the right to strike," he added.

Benin's President Patrice Talon earlier this month said "tough" choices were necessary to improve the country's economic fortunes.

"The state has to make our social and economic environment attractive and competitive in its management, administration and behaviour of its representatives," he said.

Benin has seen several months of protests against Talon's free-market reforms in education and health.

The former businessman, who made his fortune in the cotton industry, is hoping to transform the tiny West African nation and kick-start its flagging economy.

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