Home / Day: March 23, 2022
FARM WORKERS BLOCK WORK IN PLANTATIONS AND FACTORIES FOR TWO WEEKS TO PROTEST AGAINST UNWORTHY WORKING CONDITIONS
On February 23, 2022, nearly 2,000 agricultural laborers (cutters) from the Société sucrière du Cameroun (SOSUCAM) went on strike in Nkoteng to protest against the deterioration of their already precarious working conditions. The police and gendarmerie forces immediately came to disperse the crowd, using tear gas canisters. Shots were also fired and two workers were injured, in the forearm and in the thigh. After three days on strike, the agricultural laborers at the Mbandjock plantation joined the strike in the face of management’s refusal to dialogue, paralyzing work in all the plantations and factories. From 26 February to 8 March, nearly 8,000 people were suspended from work by the strike.
The strike was triggered by requests for explanations issued the day before to 180 workers by their supervisors. These workers had used their right to refuse a task, deemed too difficult. The sanction imposed, while the supervisor is supposed to adjust the tasks to the density of canes to cut, was the last straw. Indeed, the conditions of agricultural laborers are much less advantageous than those of permanent workers (lower salary scale, lower premiums, no health coverage, etc.), and their status is very precarious (seasonal contracts), even though the work is technical and physical. An investigation report, attesting to the difficult conditions of workers at Sosucam, a subsidiary of the French group Castel, has just been published. 
Despite a large-scale strike, management did not respond to the workers’ demands: on 24 February, a press release from Sosucam announced discussions with staff representatives and stated that measures would be taken, without specifying their content, and urged the workers to return to work. The workers remained united and the strike gained momentum. New promises were made by management representatives in the following days, but the general manager remained silent and absent. The strikers refused to return to work. They demanded in particular: a significant salary increase (with a base salary of 250,000 CFA francs – €380), step increases with seniority, an increase in the performance bonus, and a reduction in task objectives.
On 1 March, Sosucam management issued a press release announcing resolutions taken in consultation with union representatives (CSAC, CSTC, USLC, CSIC, CTUC). However, no representatives of the seasonal workers, who represent nearly 90% of the workers, and 100% of the agricultural laborers, are present. The strikers, meeting every day in assemblies gathering several hundred workers, demanded a public meeting with the General Manager. He agreed and finally met with the strikers at the municipal stadium on March 3 but declared that “on issues related to wage increases and the harmonization of performance bonuses, [he] could not take a decision. The strikers refuse. “What really matters is fixed pay. The cutting bonuses, for example, are issued arbitrarily by the supervisors, we get between 1000 and 3000f for that only at the end of the month”, testifies one of the leaders of the strike. So The strike has been renewed.
On March 6, a new official statement from management was issued, announcing in particular:
Despite measures deemed insufficient by striking workers, under pressure from traditional chiefs called upon by management, and with police and gendarmerie commando teams patrolling alongside Sosucam agents with megaphones in the neighborhoods, workers gradually returned to work on March 7 and 8. On March 9, the company was operating normally again.
The mobilization and tenacity of the agricultural laborers made it possible to obtain concrete progress, but they decided to organize themselves solidly in order to significantly improve their working conditions, and that their demands could be carried by legitimate and democratically elected representatives, thanks to the creation of a union of seasonal workers of Sosucam.
 The injured workers were taken to hospital in Yaoundé and the costs covered by Sosucam
 Castel: to the health of Africa – ReAct Transnational, February 2022 – https://www.projet-react.org/fr/elementor-10135/