Monday, 1 May 2017

Cameroon Observes May Day Admist Growing Social Tensions

Workers in Cameroon are observing the International Labour Day also known as May Day. Reflecting on the theme, “Social Dialogue Economic growth and National Cohesion”, stakeholders are looking at ways to maintain good relations between employers and their employees in a bid to sustain peace in the workplace and society as a whole.

Paradoxically, there appear to be an upsurge in tensions between employers and employees in the country since last year resulting in growing mistrust between both parties. Most workers told Camcord that employers who have formed an unholy alliance with government have continuously placed them in servitude. Most of them lack health insurance, social insurance, retirement benefits and other dues. The minimum package remains dismal and some jobs do not have collective conventions. Even those that have these regulations have not fully reaped from them due to bureaucratic bottlenecks and inertia.
Cameroon Observes May Day Admist Growing Social Tensions  Add caption
Unemployment according to the National Employment Fund stands over 4.5% while underemployment is growing in leaps and bounds. Attempts by workers to demand for their rights have been embraced with brutal force from employers and the government. Harmonization of the retirement age remains practically utopic as some people retire at 55, others at 60, another segment at 65 while some do not even have plans of going on a deserved rest.

Critics also lament that Staff representatives and trade unions who ought to defend workers have become partisan taking sides with the government for personal gains. While workers are abusively sacked when they rise to ask for their dues.

Social dialogue in Cameroon have lost its place in the country they cry out despite international conventions signed by the government . The new ongoing episode of the Anglophone crisis bears testimony to the absence of this important Labour instrument. Anglophone lawyers who took to the streets peacefully in October 2016 to demand for judicial reforms but were met with brutality from security forces. When Anglophone teachers joined the caravan it exploded in a full blown conflagration. Government officials who had remained indifferent to the plight of these corps sluggishly came to their senses. In the economic capital Douala, news of protests abound daily in a city where more than half of the working continue to suffer injustices.

Sadly Labour day in Cameroon has been reduced to merriment sidelining concrete dialogue amongst conflicting parties.

Government however says she is doing her best to ensure the respect of collective conventions, universal health insurance , reforms over the retirement age and decent work in general. But most of these policies have only ended on paper.

As Cameroon's Labour woes continue, all eyes are turning towards government to see to it that Labour laws are respected so that decent work will be the rule and not the exception as is the case.
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