Its 11am,on Women’s Day, while ardent gender advocates and supporters across the globe commemorates women’s struggles and accomplishments for equality and respect for human [women] rights; the CTE erstwhile[female] workers were evacuating with no severance, no compensation from the Labour Office building in Buea. A place they have occupied [sleeping, sitting or lying outside on the ground in the dust or on concrete] since 12 September. All in demand for what is rightfully theirs: severance [fcfa 2.4 billion] that was supposed to be paid to them a decade ago when the tea plantation was privatized.[Read Article1]
This came after an agreement was reached in the meeting held in Yaoundé on Monday 5th Mar 2011 between the Ex-CTE Workers Representatives and some top government officials including the Minister of Labour. Based on the joint undertaking that was signed on 9 Feb, Art (2) and Art (4).
In a national television broadcast, CRTV, the journalist announced that the CTE demonstration has stopped and that government is to completely resolve the crisis within 9months. But while they sought for solution, the Ex-Tole Tea workers have to evacuate the office structure of the Labour and National Security building, in Buea.
Mar 8, that is often a day for jubilation for all (men, children and men). A day women continue to protest through a traditional march-passed to resist subordination and inequality from most ruling patriarchy.
Most importantly, this year was devoted to the rural women. And majority of the Ex-CTE [female] Workers constitute the rural community network. Apparently, it is clear that the Ex-Tea female Workers were neither involvedin this year’s Women’s day. Nonetheless, they remain a significant figure in the movement for the fight for social rights. [ReadArticle 3]
In conversation with Mr. Ajong Fredrick, a spiritual guardians and an Ex-CTE Workers he recounts the Yaoundé Monday’s 5th Meeting.
“On Monday 5th March, we [Ex-CTE Workers] meet the minster of Labour. And he told (advised) us to write a letter to the court for withdrawal of our case file. Until the case file is withdrawn can the [government] investigate into the crisis. And the investigation may take 12 months. However, anytime the investigation is finished, a copy of the files will be taken to Finance for payment. But for the meantime, while the investigation is going on, he [minister] said - we [CTE workers] need to evacuate the building because the files needed for the investigation are kept in the building which we are occupying.
We [CTE workers] agreed to write the withdrawal letter to the court though in the first instance we [CTE workers] weren’t the ones who sent the matter to court. However, we agreed.
The next point which we [CTE Workers] negotiated and it finally resolved to 9months was the investigation time given. In addition, we made the minister to realize that we [CTE Workers] have already spent 6months out of our homes. And most of us are farmers and the planting session for 2012 has past. Secondly, it’s soon getting to another school year, since we didn’t cultivate this year; it’s obvious that we can’t afford to send our children to school. This would be the second academic year; most of our children are staying out of school. So we [CTE Workers] will need some compensation (at least fcfa 200 000 per worker) subtracted from our to-be paid severance. So that we can meet up with our basic needs; health care, food, rents and children fees while waiting for the investigation to come to fruition”.
In this regard, Mr. Ajong said, the minister respond was negative to their request. Instead he told the Ex-Tea Workers that since they have managed to stay (persevered) for six months, they can try to be patient for another 9 months. “For this 9 months won’t kill you people” Mr. Ajong quoted the Minister of Labour.
Again he said: “Well, we [Ex-CTE Workers) had already agreed to the terms. And the other demand on local transportation [fare], the government responded to it on 8th March. This day, the Governor called us [on phone] to inform us that our local fare was already sent and that he will sent somebody to come deliver the money. Shortly after, his driver came with an envelope and inside was almost fcfa 250 000 which was shared among80 persons.
Before that, while in Yaoundé, a committee was formed. These included representatives from Ex-CTE (6), CDCs (2), Labour (2), CTE Management (2) and Trade Union (2). The six (6) Ex-CTE workers represented are five men and one woman.
And on the 7th of March, we sent a letter of withdrawal to the Court of First Instance here in Buea and a copy to the Governor of South West Region. On the same day, we received an approval and an acceptance to withdraw our case file from the Supreme Court. Usually, withdrawal cases are payable but we weren’t asked to pay.”
Personally, Mr. Ajong says: “I am confused. I don’t know what to do. I feel so bad and disappointed with the government. Why did the minister of Labour take this long to call us [Ex-CTE] for dialogue? And even after the dialogue – we left empty handed.And I have been seriously sick, still recovering. With little money to even manage myself. I used to do plantains farming but now I can’t because the planting session is almost over. Even if I commence now, I can’t success because June is heavy raining season and won’t be a suitable time to do nursing / planting”.
By 5 December, 2012 – Cameroonians (and the global audience) looks forward to seeing the government respects its promise by paying the Ex-CTE Workers. Since this is not the first time a meeting is held on this issue. And hope this is a beginning of something meaningful in Cameroon: respect for workers’ rights.