Protest against French company’s maltreatment of employees stall activities at Douala port

Loading and offloading of ships at the Douala seaport have been halted because of an ongoing strike by stevedores. The…

Loading and offloading of ships at the Douala seaport have been halted because of an ongoing strike by stevedores. The 3,300 employees of the Cameroon Importers Group, commonly known in French as Groupement Professionel des Acconiers du Cameroun (GPAC) downed tools again this morning after a failed dialogue initiated by their employers last Saturday.

The protesters are calling on government to dissolve the French-run GPAC and hand over its rights and responsibility to the Cameroon Ports Authority. They are accusing the company of treating them like slaves.

In a strike notice to the regional delegate of the ministry of labour and social security dated May 11, 2017, the stevedores quibbled that the company has failed in its responsibility towards them. On the list of responsibilities outlined in the letter, they included non-respect of basic salary scale, failure to provide social insurance cover, on-review of hourly wages, non-respect of signed conventions and agreements, non-payment of family allowances among others. The strikers also bemoaned discriminatory treatment of employers.

947 tons deficit

Meanwhile, Cyrius Ngo’o, General Manager of the Douala Ports Authority, DPA, had in a statement, stressed that the “job of stevedores is very crucial for the performance and output of the port” and noted they must be given a improved treatment.

The GM also noted with disenchantment that the company prefers to use illegal workers who only present their ID cards and are hired to work and earn wages based on completed tasks. The statement also indicted the GPAC of duplicitously hiring illegal workers leaving its stevedores stranded.

Ngo’o also condemned other disreputable practices which he said, interfere with security and performance of the stevedores. These unscrupulous activities, he said, are some of the causes of slow offloading of vessels and other offshore activities at the port. He also pointed out that these irregular activities also contribute to the congestion and pollution of the port premises.

Going by the ports GM, the daily output of the “conventional terminal” currently stands at 1826tons, which represents a deficit of 947 tons of its projected daily target.

Sources at the port, say the French import and export group, GPAC pays some stevedores as meagre as 100FCFA per hour. “This could be the reason some of them are of a mind to to steal goods from the port. They are really treated as slaves but I am confident the port authority general manager will take them out of that disarray. I learned he will be going to meet the protesters soon;” our source said.

Worth noting is the fact that the protesters had blocked cocoa and coffee exports on Friday May 12 when they started the strike. They later on resumed work on Saturday May 13 and commenced dialogue with authorities- which dialogue seemed to have failed to yield desired fruits.