Benin: Magistrates announce 5-day strike to protest banning of strikes

Magistrates in Benin on Thursday announced a five-day strike in protest against a parliamentary decision to ban strikes by workers in essential services.

The National Union of Benin Magistrates (UNAMAB), said its members would hold a five-day strike starting on January 8.

“We cannot tolerate such a democratic retreat.. it is urgent to respond vigorously to the beginning of the liquidation of Benin’s democracy,” UNAMAB said in a statement.

The controversial law voted in by parliament on December 28, bans strikes by “the military, public security agents (including police, customs officers and firefighters), health services workers, judicial staff, prison officers and those concerned with state security”.

On Wednesday Justice Minister Joseph Djogbenou spoke out in support of the new law saying that “the state can, in the public interest and constitutional needs, ban specific sectors from the right to strike”.

Benin’s struggling economy is largely dependent on trade with its larger neighbour to the east, Nigeria, which has itself not long emerged from a months-long recession.

President Patrice Talon’s plans for recovery, including liberalising the economy – at a time of rising costs of living and tax – have seen a wave of industrial action in recent months, including the court and education sectors.

Health workers went on strike from September to November last year over proposed privatisation plans, which are part of Talon’s wider free-market reforms which he hopes will kickstart the small west African country’s slowing economy.

In October and November judicial staff went on strike in protest against nominations by the justice ministry and to demand salary reviews.