By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi
Social partners of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) have agreed to work together in ensuring that regular meetings with workers are held in order to get them resume work for the survival of the company.
This is contained in a “company agreement” signed on November 29, 2018 between the CDC represented by her General Manager, Franklin Ngoni Njie and workers’ union representatives.
The Extraordinary Joint Industrial Council Meeting held in the Boardroom of the CDC at Bota Limbe was attended among others by: Franklin Njie, CDC General Manager; Yvette Litombo epse Lyonga, Regional Delegate of Labour and Social Security for the South West; Samuel Mokosso Ekema, Divisional Delegate of Labour and Social Security for Fako; Mbide Charles Kude, General Secretary of the Fako Agricultural Workers’ Union (FAWU); Mbene Gabriel Vefonge, President of the Divisional Syndicate of Agricultural Workers Fako (DISAWOFA); Vidini Demian Yufenyuy, Administrative secretary of the Agricultural Workers’ Union of Meme/Kupe Muanenguba (AWUM/K); and Emoh Maurice Takwa, independent staff representative from Illoani/Boa Area.
After the closed door meeting, the attendees resolved that:
“Management [of CDC] should communicate sufficiently using all the appropriate media on all significant issues affecting the corporation during this period of ongoing socio-political crisis affecting the North West and South West Regions.
“Social partners are appealing to the state of Cameroon to intensify security measures within the Corporation to create an enabling environment that will guarantee the security of workers to resume work.
“Social partners agreed to work together in ensuring that regular meetings with workers shall be held in order to get them resume work for the survival of the CDC.
“Regarding the outstanding arrears of salaries of workers and other debts, social partners enjoined the General Manager to continue appealing to the Government to provide the approved funds.”
The government is apparently not showing concern to the plight of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), a giant agro-industrial outfit badly bruised by the socio-political unrest in the North West and South West Regions.
With the growing fragility of the social peace among the large labour force of the CDC, government has since been expected to take urgent measures to save the company. In fact, the Anglophone crisis only came to add to the problems of low yields, old factories and outdated mills rocking the CDC.
The government on June 20, 2018, rather opted to sign three memoranda of understanding with three international investors – two French and one Egyptian – as part of a process to restructure and step up production at the CDC without any mention of Pamol.
The agreements link CDC to Fertilore for the possible supply of fertilizers, TIMAC AGRO for the potential supply of specialist fertilizers mostly for the banana sector Tyllium for the eventual construction of a Rubber Factory and a Palm Oil Mill.
CDC General Manager, Franklin Ngoni Njie is quoted as saying that “the fertilizers will help to increase the CDC’s current annual production of 18,000 m3 tons of rubber, 25.000 tons of palm oil and 110.000 tons of banana” and that “the new rubber factory and oil mill will bring an end to frequent breakdowns and significantly reduce the cost of production, thereby making the Corporation more profitable and sustainable”.
Njie went on to sign a contract with TIMAC AGRO for the training of agronomists of the CDC and for it to oversee the fertilization of 400 hectares of specially chosen parcels of banana plantations with a view of increasing production by about 30% in a year.
CDC officials had said the June 20 memoranda will pave the way for negotiations, which if successful, will culminate in real contractual engagements.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Henry Eyebe Ayissi had on May 22, 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Canadian company for the eventual supply of heavy equipment to the CDC.
After the agreements signed in Yaoundé, the general Manager of the CDC came back without the much needed money to pay its workers who have since written to the Head of State. CDC staff reps and unionists in a June 15, 2018 letter addressed to President Paul Biya urge him to “speedily seek appeasing solutions to the ongoing crisis” and as well “provide urgent financial assistance to workers in crisis-hit estates”.
With the CDC in need of over FCFA 80 billion subvention from the state to stabilize itself, the fact that the General Manager returned from Yaoundé without the much needed subvention points to government insensitivity to the plights of the workers of the company.
During a meeting, Friday, June 8, 2018 at the Senior Service (SS) Club Bota chaired by CDC General Manager, Franklin Njie, staff representatives were told that the corporation plans to lay-off workers in estates badly affected by the civil unrest – close to nine thousand workers may be affected by this decision. While work has been paralysed in most of the units of the CDC, the few workers who went about their regular duties have hardly been paid. Others were attacked by suspected separatists and had their fingers chopped off.
Going by a report presented on May 8, 2018 during a meeting attended by 17 persons including CDC management staff, labour administrators and trade union leaders, “the crisis is taking a toll on the socio-economic situation of workers as several establishments are no longer in operation given that workers, out of fear and threats on their lives no longer go to work”.
The CDC has about twenty thousand contracts of employment and a related monthly wage bill of about FCFA 2.5 billion. “Considering the fact that production activities have ceased in many of the estates and industrial units; taking into account the likely deterioration of the existing socio-economic situation;” the CDC social partners recommended that “the government should take hasty measures to redress this situation so that social peace and economic revival be restored in CDC establishments.”
The staff reps and unionists want the state to take its responsibility as owner of 100 percent shares of the CDC, which responsibility includes and is not limited to providing money for the payment of salaries and seeking measures to resolve the current crisis.
Franklin Njie used the November 29, 2018 meeting to clear rumours that CDC had on November 9 received a grant of FCFA 86 billion. “It is not true. CDC has not received a grant of FCFA 86 billion,” the general manager insists.