Congolese Trade Unions' Confederation strikes for trade union independence, 1990

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
While the campaign stretched over more than a month, almost all of the action happened with four days of the beginning, and within six days of the end.
September 14,
1990
to
October 17,
1990
Location and Goals
Country: 
Republic of the Congo
Country: 
Congo-Brazzaville
Location City/State/Province: 
Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire
Location Description: 
Mostly in urban areas
Goals: 
To prevent workers from being laid off, raising wages, stopping privatization, and achieving legal trade union independence.
 

From September to October 1990, the Congolese Trade Unions’ Confederation (CSC) conducted several strikes aimed at ending privatization, increasing wages, achieving legal trade union independence, and stopping lay-offs. The CSC almost exclusively used strikes to further its demands.

On September 14, the CSC called a general strike to protest the government’s involvement within the trade union movement, and its recent termination of a CSC congress. The government, up until then, had prevented trade unions from legally acting independently. The strike crippled the country, halting traffic between Brazzaville (the nation’s capital) and Pointe-Noire (the country’s economic capital), and disrupting banks, river ferries, and air transportation. In response, president Denis Sassou-Nguesso offered some minor concessions to workers and urged them to return to work, but the strike continued. Strike leaders also refused to recognize the new congress of trade unions set up by the government.

After three days of the strike, President Sassou-Nguesso addressed the nation and made several concessions, which convinced the CSC to suspend the strike. The government allowed the CSC congress to continue, and followed all of its recommendations. Two weeks later, President Sassou-Nguesso again spoke to the nation about his commitment to moving toward a multi-party democracy, in which he mentioned the strike as a cause for his decision.

On October 11, the CSC announced another strike to protest the privatization of Hydro-Congo, an oil company, by the Congolese government. The planned privatization would have caused 650 workers to be laid off. By the 13th, the strike had spread to Elf and Agip oil companies, but these strikes ended when management granted pay increases. Workers in fuel distribution, municipal service, and transport also struck in Pointe-Noire. This created a petrol shortage. City councilmen also requisitioned city buses that had been privatized by the government. Reports also surfaced that some protestors had rioted and looted schools and private homes.

On the 14th, the government announced it would halt further privatization due to the strikes, but the President condemned the strikes and suggested “dark forces” were their cause. On the same day, however, the government and the CSC held a meeting with the intention of settling the differences between the two sides. The meeting addressed the freezing of financial compensation for promotions, the right of collective bargaining, restructuring the Civil Service, auditing procedures, and defining the links between state enterprises and corresponding ministries. Following the meeting, leaders lifted the freeze on compensation for promotion, organizers set up future meetings on the right to collective bargaining, on the restructuring of the Civil Service, and on evaluating audits. Also, both sides agreed that ministries had a limited role in running state enterprises, and more exactly defined the jobs of the ministries. Finally, leaders agreed to weekly meetings to hash out any remaining disagreements.

In the end, the campaign achieved all of its goals, and even instigated the transition to a multi-party democracy.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Beginning in February of 1990, teachers and students struck in the Congo, which created an atmosphere in which organizations realized strikes were effective means of achieving their goals (1).

Although this campaign is not considered part of the wave, it is likely that the President's decision to move towards a multi-party democracy was influenced by the wave of African Democracy Campaigns (early 1990s).

Five days after the end of the the CSC strike, an unrelated labor movement also held a general strike to protest the process through which employees negotiated with employers. (2)

Sources: 
Congo General Strike Continues. AFP. Paris, France, 15 Sept. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 17 Sept. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

Congo Government Suspends Privatisation Plan following Strike. AFP. 14 Oct. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 16 Oct. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

CONGO MULTIPARTY SYSTEM TO BE SET UP FOLLOWING PCT CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETING. Africa No 1. Libreville, Gabon, 28 Sept. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 02 Oct. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

Congo Party Official Announces Measures Adopted with Unions. Voix De La Revolution. Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 17 Sept. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 20 Sept. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

Congo President Condemns Strikes. Africa No 1. Libreville, Gabon, 14 Oct. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 16 Oct. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

"Congo Strike." The Independent [London] 17 Sept. 1990: 12. Lexis Nexis. Web.

Congo Strikes Continue in Brazzaville. AFP. 14 Oct. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 16 Oct. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

Congo Workers Resume ''daily Duties'' Voix De La Revolution. Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 17 Sept. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 20 Sept. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

JOINT CONGOLESE GOVERNMENT-TRADE UNION COMMUNIQUE ON MEETING ON STRIKES. Voix De La Revolution. Brazzaville, Gabon, 14 Oct. 1990. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. BBC, 17 Oct. 1990. Web. Lexis Nexis. Transcript.

Additional Notes: 
Edited by Max Rennebohm (09/09/2011)
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Danny Hirschel-Burns, 10/04/2011