Tens of thousands of trained teachers, doctors and nurses have fled Cameroon 0

Hundreds of thousands of workers across Cameroon are observing International Labor Day on May 1 by marching against abuses they say include illegal dismissals and failure to pay the $70 monthly minimum wage, even as the cost of living increases.

Trade unions say tens of thousands of trained teachers, doctors and nurses have fled the country in the past year because of unemployment and tough working conditions, with monthly salaries at half the minimum.

Celestin Bama, secretary general of the Confederation of Cameroon Workers Trade Union, or CSTC, addressed workers gathered at the May 20 Boulevard in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde.

Bama said the government of Cameroon has not done anything substantial within the past 30 years to improve the conditions of workers. Thirty years ago, Cameroon imposed a 70 percent salary cut on government workers, Bama said, adding that there is a growing need to increase wages as prices of basic commodities have spiked 40 percent.

Cameroon trade unions say a 20 percent fuel price hike imposed by the government in February without a corresponding salary increase has also made living very difficult.

Anong Jacob, a member of the Cameroon Teachers Trade Union, or CATTU, said some private school owners pay teachers as little as $50 a month.

“What do you expect from a teacher who earns 40,000 or 30,000 francs in a town like Yaounde or Douala or Bamenda, Bafoussam? What quality of shoe or dress would you expect them to put [wear] and come to school? You see the poor teacher with twisted shirts, with twisted shoes and all of that. Sometimes they don’t have money to pay electricity bills. They suffer a lot of humiliation,” Anong said. “I think the government should put some policies [in place] to see that proprietors and proprietresses respect the minimum wage.”

Cameroon’s agreed minimum wage is $70 per month. Hilary Mbuwel, a teacher and social critic, said private employers do not respect the minimum wage because the government does not police private companies.

“Proprietors know that if they do not respect the minimum wage, nobody calls them to account and so, since there is nobody to call them to account, nobody to punish them, they do it with impunity,” Mbuwel said.

The government says there has been a 10 percent pay raise since 2023, but workers say with inflation so high, the raise is negligible. The government says the inflation rate is about 8 percent.

Cameroon Minister of Labor and Social Security Gregoire Owona said the fragile world economy and several armed conflicts that the government has to manage make it impossible for the state and private investors to satisfy the needs of all workers.

Owona said limited financial resources make it difficult for the government of Cameroon to solve the myriad problems affecting workers. He added that Cameroon President Paul Biya has ordered officials to make sure the wages of all government workers are paid regularly and as agreed in their employment contracts, while the possibility of improved workers’ rights, decent working conditions and fair compensation are being examined.

Owona said the Cameroon government has instructed police and the National Insurance Fund to investigate and punish private employers who neither register their staff members to social security schemes nor respect the minimum wage.

The government says respecting agreed wages and providing retirement benefits and disability income to qualified workers and their families will reduce the current massive migration of workers for lucrative jobs elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.

Cameroon says at least 10,000 trained professionals have fled the central African state within the past year because of unemployment, poor pay or poor working conditions.

Source: VOA