The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ivory Coast:
A Victorious Strike

Jan 18, 2016

This article is from the January 8th, 2016 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

In the most recent edition of their journal Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (December 20, 2015) our comrades from the African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers (UATCI-UCI) recount a strike by bus drivers working for the Abidjan Transport Company (SOTRA).

The SOTRA drivers went out on strike on December 7th. They issued no strike notice and did not even inform the main union leaders in advance, out of fear that those who were closer to the bosses than to the workers would sabotage them.

In past strikes, SOTRA management laid off striking workers using the pretext that they did not respect the proper procedures and their action was illegal. This time, management changed its attitude when it saw that the bus drivers were determined. Just a few hours after the strike started, the bosses were forced to meet with the strike delegation....

The bosses agreed on the spot to raise their pay by 8%, including a retroactive increase going back to January 2015. They also got a bonus equal to 150% of their take-home pay.

As for the workers' other demands, which included hiring new workers as “employee-trainees,” a security bonus of 50,000 francs CFA (about $80), and a housing allowance of 60,000 francs CFA (about $100), management agreed to establish a “framework for discussion.” In other words, the workers will have to carry out another strike, this time even stronger and along with the other SOTRA workers, before the bosses will condescend to take seriously what they are asking for.

This bus drivers’ strike shows once again that only a change in the balance of forces can make the bosses listen. What weighed in favor of the drivers was that they transport thousands of workers to their jobs every day. This means that a SOTRA strike has immediate consequences for the bosses at the port, the banks, and the factories, to name only a few examples! The SOTRA management, and no doubt the government behind them, chose to partially give in to the demands of these striking workers. All the more so because the government also has reason to fear that the strike could spread. If this strike had lasted, it had the possibility of drawing in workers from other industries, knowing that many of the drivers’ demands resonated just as strongly with their own situations. Such a strike might have “spoiled” the bosses’ New Year’s celebrations.