Chair of the Railway Section Steering Committee David Gobé has led a mission to Mali and Senegal, where railway workers are facing enormous difficulties following the shutdown of activity from the company Dakar-Bamako Ferroviaire (DBF).
During the mission Gobé met with the nine unions organising Malian and Senegalese railway workers, including those affiliated to the ITF with a view to mobilising a sustainable revival of DBF activities.
Accompanied by Bayla Sow, ITF representative for Francophone Africa and ECOWAS, the ITF delegation spoke with national trade union confederations and several authorities including ministries of labour, infrastructure, transport and the High Council of Social Dialogue from both countries.
The 1287 km rail line has played an important part in the history of both countries with hundreds of towns and villages developing their economic and social activities around its existence.
In 2003 the rail network was privatised and entrusted to the French-Canadian consortium Transrail. Following the loss of more than 3000 jobs the presidents of Mali and Senegal terminated the contract and set up DBF which today, still needs CFAF 20 billion (30,070,836 Euros) to effectively resume operations - locomotives, wagons and maintenance equipment remain in a dismal state of disrepair.
Noel Coard Inland Sections Secretary said: “Once again we see the real crises of the privatisation and the impact that it has had and continues to have railway workers and their families in Mali and Senegal. The economic decisions that taken in 2003 to privatise the railway network and its complete failure has had a huge negative social impact to railway workers in Mali and Senegal. The importance of the railway network in West Africa is vital for the survival of generations of people within the region. We must fight to retain our railways and fight for social justice.”
A warm welcome
Railway workers have warmly welcomed the ITF delegation while expressing their sincere thanks for this historic and hopeful mission.
In Bamako, the ITF delegation took part in the ceremony of handing over to the Malian railway workers a solidarity check of 10,000 Euros offered by the Fédération Cheminots de la CGT-France.
The delegation also met with the Malian women railway workers named the ‘Amazons’ who participated in the union actions, by physically imposing themselves against the arrest of union leaders by the Malian police.
In March 2019, ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton sent a letter to the President of Mali urging him to do everything possible to pay the salary arrears of Malian railway workers and promptly revive DBF activities.