Striking Public sector workers in Benin

Media Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

COTONOU- Benin’s public sector unions on Wednesday claimed “a small step forward” following a meeting with President Patrice Talon over weeks of strike action that have paralyzed the public sector.

Union leaders met government officials and Talon on Tuesday night to discuss an end to the crisis, which has seen mass walk-outs at hospitals, schools, and courts.

“We brought up the question of freedoms and expressed our unhappiness… the head of state did not dismiss it,” Anselme Amoussou, of the confederation of independent unions, told AFP.

“There’s been a small step forward,” he added but maintained that planned strike action would not be suspended.

Benin has been gripped by an industrial action for weeks over Talon’s proposed free-market reforms that are intended to kick-start the country’s economy.

Unions want better pay and conditions for their members and also opposed a plan to ban public sector workers from going on strike.

The constitutional court last month declared the proposed law to be unconstitutional.

Talon said the government “did not have the means” to take on commitments of 700 billion CFA francs ($1.3 billion, 1.1 billion euros) in the next ten years.

To do so would not be responsible and was unrealistic, he added in a statement published late on Tuesday.

The government has set up a commission to look into the demands of public sector workers. It is due to report on February 15.

Talon, a former businessman who made his fortune in the cotton sector, vowed that he would increase dialogue with the unions in the future.