Schools, hospitals shut as Chad civil servants go on strike
Hospitals and schools were shut in Chad Monday as civil servants went on strike over pay cuts imposed by the cash-strapped government which is under pressure to cut public funding to meet the demands of international donors.
Public sector workers are demanding payment of their "full salary" after bonuses and allowances were slashed by 50 percent in January as part of a package of austerity measures to improve state finances. They had already seen a similar 50 percent cut in 2016.
President Idriss Deby, who has been in power since 1990, had asked them to wait until the end of the year to regularise their salaries.
The unions on Saturday refused his request and called for an indefinite strike.
Primary and secondary schools in the capital and the University of N'Djamena were closed on Monday while the main ministries were functioning at a slow pace, with many offices shut.
"This strike is jeopardising the future of our children who are in exam class," said parent Joseph Issa.
Schools in other major cities were also closed.
At the general hospital in N'Djamena, staff nurse Ali Soumaine said they were providing "a minimal service for surgery, resuscitation and other sensitive services".
The government was "surprised" at the strike call, spokeswoman Madeleine Alinque said in a statement.
"We question the headlong rush of unions that do not honour our country or workers," she said.
"The government is inviting all workers to go about their daily business normally, and efforts are under way for a sustainable recovery of the social situation," she added.
Magistrates on Monday also began a three-day strike in protest at a police attack on lawyers in Doba last week.
According to trade union leader Michel Barka, the situation of civil servants "is more and more unacceptable, and it gives the workers no pleasure every time they have to close the schools, the hospitals, the public administration".
Barka accused the government of not "making an effort" to deal with the situation.
Chad, a poverty-stricken landlocked country of nearly 15 million people, has about 92,000 civil servants.
The austerity measures imposed in January led to a seven-week strike by civil servants. The government and trade unions in March reached an agreement to end the paralysis of the public sector.
The government proposed ending the cuts to bonuses and allowances at the end of May.
N'Djamena obtained a three-year $312 million (254 million euro) credit line from the International Monetary Fund last June. It has received two tranches of $99.8 million but has to make progress on improving state finances to access further funds.
The economy of Chad, where 40 percent of the population live in poverty, has been badly hit by a downturn in the price of oil exports since 2015.