Suriname: Unions plan protest strike against electricity rate increase

CMC – The Trade Union Federation of Suriname, (C-47) has warned that the two day industrial action planned for later this week to protest the increased electricity rates, will last longer if the Suriname government does not give a favourable response to its concerns. 

C-47 says it has the support of several trade unions, including the police union and several unions within the education sector and is also preparing a lawsuit against the Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi government over the increased electricity rates. 

In February, the government announced plans to phase out subsidies for gas, electricity and fuel as it seeks to reduce expenditure and keep within the guidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

The government said while a social program is being implemented to help the vulnerable groups in the society, it is not sustainable to continue the subsidies 

According to the government, diesel must be reduced by SRD10  (One SRD=US$0.03 cents) per litre, with electricity SRD260 per connection and “gas bombs’ of 28 pounds, more than SRD400 each. 

But the C-47 maintains that the government must first correct the abuses in the energy sector and that the increases in electricity rates did not have to be so drastic. 

It said that the first increase of 40 per cent has already taken effect, and after that another 28 per cent will be added followed by a seven per cent hike per month until November. 

Speaking at a special meeting of labour unions on Monday, C-47 chairman Robby Berenstein outlined the plans the federation will take should the government’s response be inadequate. 

He said the the unions affiliated with the trade union federation will keep their members at home on May 2 and 3. 

“Everyone stays at home, no dog goes on the street, as the late Fred Derby would say. If there is no clarity within those two strike days – the days we stay at home – we will continue with the action,” Berenstien said. 

“We are also going to litigate against the government about how this rate increase came about. We are working with the lawyers, we are preparing it. When the time comes you will hear how we are going to litigate. So please know that we are working on that,” the C-47 leaders said, adding “until now they were taking the unions to court. Now we are taking them to court”. 

Monday’s meeting was also attended by representatives of unions that are not affiliated with C-47,including the Military Union, Police Union, FOLS, KOB, SOB, and the Syndicate for Educators in Suriname.

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