Cameroon airline workers strike for compensation, 2005-2006


The primary goal of the employees was to receive compensation for their work from October 2004-January 2005. They developed secondary goals of health insurance, union rights, and the preservation of Camair’s destination network after its privatization. They also, during negotiations in May 2006, requested the reopening of the Douala Boeing maintenance center.

Time period

January, 2005 to July, 2006



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

Segment Length

Approximately 3 months


Rene Bernard Ekedi
Pierre Essimi
Group of Camair Workers Syndicates


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Cameroon government
Camair administration

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice



Group characterization

Cameroon Airlines employees

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Joining order not known

Segment Length

Approximately 3 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

2 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

4 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Some of the Camair employees received the compensation that they demanded, though some did not. It was unclear whether they achieved health insurance, union rights, the preservation of Camair’s destination network after privatization, or the reopening of the Douala Boeing maintenance center. I could not determine the ultimate fate of the Camair employees beyond July 2006.
At that time, they were still unsatisfied with the process of determining the benefits they could expect to receive upon being dismissed.

Database Narrative

Since its creation in 1971, the 96.4% state-owned Cameroon Airlines (CAMAIR) had faced periods of financial stress.  In 2004 the Cameroonian government replaced the head of Camair with Thomas Dakayi Kamga, but under new leadership Comair’s debt continued to grow.  

As of 2005 Camair had 72 billion CAF francs (the equivalent of 110 million euros) of debt and no airplanes of its own. The Cameroon government owned the majority of Camair shares. International donors to Camair, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, pressured the Cameroon government to privatize it. 

In January 2005 Camair had not paid approximately 1000 of its employees since October 2004.  The Group of Camair Workers Syndicates, under the leadership of Rene Bernard Ekedi, initiated a strike demanding compensation for the past three months.   

Camair paid a half-month’s salary to about 300 employees.  Camair said that full compensation would only be possible if the government loaned Camair 3 billion CFA francs.  The Cameroon government made a loan that Camair’s head Kamga said was not enough to pay the workers’ back-pay. 

Following a meeting between the union and the company, workers began to receive regular salaries again and the strike was ended. They still, however, were not fully compensated for their time between October and January.  

On 12 February 2005, Kamga warned that Camair might go bankrupt within two months. 

Ten days later Minister of Economy and Finance Polycarpe Abah Abah told the Cameroon Employers Association that the Cameroon government planned to liquidate Camair by the end of 2005. The next day Cameroon President Paul Biya appointed Paul Ngamo Hamani as the Provisional Administrator of Cameroon Airlines, with the assignment of rescuing the company’s financial standing by restructuring and privatizing the airline. 

On 16 August the government agreed to compensate Camair employees for their October-January wages.  The government also committed in this agreement to provide health insurance and union rights to Camair employees.  

The next day the government formally dismissed 430 of the 1,300 Camair employees, on the grounds of their willful or planned retirement.  The government said it had set aside 5 billion CFA francs (the equivalent of 7.5 million euros) to resolve the wages and benefits owed to the 430 released workers.  

On 27 January 2006 the Cameroon government began to privatize Camair, announcing that private investors could buy shares in Camair. 

On 10 February, ten workers who had been dismissed in August picketed at the CAMAIR headquarters in Douala, stating that the government had never fully compensated them. These demonstrations continued throughout February.  The government issued no response.  

As of July 2006, the workers still had not received full compensation for the benefits that the government had promised them upon their dismissal.  Camair employees wrote a letter to the Cameroon president protesting the lack of compensation.

In late May, representatives of the Group of Camair Workers Syndicates met with Camair’s head to demand the fulfillment of the agreement and the preservation of Camair’s destination network through its privatization.  They also demanded the reopening of the Douala Boeing maintenance center.  The meeting was inconclusive.  The union decided to go back on strike.  

On 5 June, Camair employees, including pilots, air hostesses, and ground staff started to strike at the Douala airport.  Employees picketed at the airport instead of fulfilling their responsibilities.  For 24 hours, international airlines canceled flights to Douala and Yaounde because there was no staff to receive them.  

On 10 June, all ground staff resumed work after employees negotiated the payment of the owed salaries.  The pilots and air hostesses continued to strike since all of their demands had not been met.

On 30 June 2006, the Cameroon government sold 51% of Camair shares to Bengian airline SN Brussels and Cameroonian investment firm Cenainvest.  The government planned to own some of the remaining shares and to sell some to Camair employees and other private investors. 

As of early July 2006, the Cameroon government had not informed Camair employees of the fate of their jobs.  If their jobs were categorized in the liquidated section, then the company would have no obligation to continue to employ them.  Employees had not yet been fully compensated for their time. The government assured them that they would pay the workers what they owed them, but by late July did not specify how they would calculate the amounts owed.  

Workers’ representatives proposed that they be compensated according to the agreement signed in 2005, but the government was not responsive. 

Cameroon airlines remained intermittently operational until March 2008 when it was dissolved.


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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Laura Rigell, 17/03/2013