Public workers in Guinea-Bissau march for higher wages

Hundreds of civil servants took to the streets of Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday to demand a hike in the minimum wage and better living conditions.

The protest was organised by the Union of Guinea-Bissau workers (UNTG), which regroups 8 000 out of the West African country's 13 000 civil servants.

Demonstrators marched from the outskirts of the capital Bissau to its centre, chanting "Down with lawmakers paid to do nothing" and "We demand decent wages and better conditions," an AFP journalist saw.

"It is intolerable for government to raise the wages of ministers and parliamentarians while at the same time other public servants are paid next to nothing," UNTG Secretary General Julio Antonio Mendoca said.

UNTG is calling for the minimum monthly salary to be upped from $33.87 to $105.12.

"We will carry on until we succeed," Mendoca added.

It is the fifth action organised by UNTG in six weeks, including a three-day strike in June.

"The civil servants' claims are fair but the method used is inappropriate because the government cannot afford to meet the claims," Prime Minister Aristides Gomes told reporters last week.

"The government was formed to organise elections and deal with day-to-day matters."

Parliament last month adopted its first budget after nearly three years of political instability ahead of legislative elections set for November.

The former Portuguese colony was plunged into a power struggle in August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his then prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira.

Lawmakers did not meet for nearly two years - a crisis that was defused in April under an agreement reached at a summit in Togo of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Under it, Gomes was appointed as a consensus prime minister and tasked with steering the country to the November 18 polls.

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