- Guinea's two most powerful trade unions have threatened to call an unlimited general strike from Thursday unless the government acts on demands issued two weeks ago. With the Guinean franc steadily losing value, wages have depreciated almost 40 percent in one year.
An unprecedented general strike three months ago brought the capital Conakry to a halt and forced the government to promise 30 percent pay rises for civil servants and commit to the introduction of a minimum wage for everyone else.
But new demands by the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG) and the Union Syndicate of Guinean Workers (USTG) call for reductions in the prices of fuel and the nation's staple food, rice.
Fuel price rises in May, implemented in line with International Monetary Fund's (IMF) policy to end fuel subsidies, have forced across the board price rises putting greater strain on the average Guinean's meagre budget.
Also under IMF policy, Guinea adopted a floating exchange rate on 1 March 2005, and as a result the Guinean franc has lost 38 percent of its value against currencies like the dollar. Informal money-changers on the streets of Conakry hawk plastic bags full of tattered Guinean Francs in exchange for a few crisp dollars or euros.
And this means that a university graduate lucky enough to work in the civil service earning around 200,000 Guinean francs, has seen that monthly wage depreciate 40 percent to the equivalent of US$ 40. The currency depreciation has had a strong impact on food as Guinea, despite its varied environment, imports the majority of its rice, the country's staple. As a result, a 50-kg sack of rice is fast becoming out of the reach of most people - at US$ 22.
Over the weekend queues have been forming at petrol stations as fears grow that the government will meet the demands of the fuel vendors and raise prices once again.
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