- A general strike in Burkina Faso on Friday found massive support among the members of the united trade unions in the country. The "warning strike" paralysed the capital, Ouagadougou, and united all of the country's independent trade unions, fighting for pay rises and social benefits.
An estimated sixty thousand public sector employees across the country, according to the trade unions, participated in the "warning strike" and some 5,000 workers brought the capital city to a standstill when they marched through the streets of Ouagadougou to protest against high living costs and "the government's attitude".
The general strike united Burkina Faso's otherwise split labour movement. It was organised by a united front of the six national trade union organisations and 12 independent trade unions, who called the strike.
The stoppage was what unions call "the natural follow up" to the marches and protest meetings called by the same organisations on 18 December 2004 in support of a claims package including a 25 percent rise in wages and pensions, tax cuts - particularly on fuel products - and the prompt reconstruction of Ouagadougou's central market, burnt down in 2003.
Following the massive trade union action on 18 December 2004, the Burkinabe government had announced a series of wage increase measures on 29 December. Wage increases ranged from 4.5 to 8 percent, far below the trade unions' demands.
The trade unions considered that the proposed government measures had fallen "very short" of their demands. They say the demands were drawn up "on the basis on real living costs," which the workers in Burkina Faso are finding increasingly difficult to endure.
The trade unions said that Friday's mass action - a 24-hour stoppage and protest marches - was only a "warning". Unionists demand serious considerations of their demands by the government and new negotiations. If their demands are not met, strikes of a longer duration would be considered. The successful strike on Friday was merely a demonstration of the unions' strength.
The government of Burkina Faso may however find it difficult to comply with the trade unions' demands. Authorities are obliged to adhere to sober budgets elaborated jointly with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF only last week criticised the Ouagadougou government for entering into two loan agreements without seeking permission from the Fund.
Friday's general strike was organised by the two main Burkinabe independent trade union organisations - Confédération Syndicale Burkinabé (CSB) and Organisation Nationale des Syndicats Libres (ONSL) - in addition to four unions somewhat closer to the government.
The Burkinabe unions were today congratulated by their international partners for having shown strength by uniting their forces. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today expressed its "full backing" for the calls made by its two member unions, the CSB and the ONSL, and supported their demands for a wage review.
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