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City Employees in Haiti’s Capital Strike for Back Pay

September 26, 1996

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ With the support of their outspoken mayor, about 750 administrative and cleaning employees in Haiti’s capital shut down City Hall and went on strike Wednesday to demand months of back pay.

They joined 50 nurses at the state university hospital who walked off the job on Tuesday to demand eight months’ back pay. Patients waited hours for services on Wednesday.

Downtown streets were calm Wednesday, a day after street cleaners _ who have not been paid in two years _ blocked access to the municipal cemetery and smeared excrement on the door of the Finance Ministry.

Port-au-Prince Mayor Emmanuel Charlemagne says his government is broke and needs to borrow about $400,000 from the federal government to pay the city’s 750 employees. The cash-strapped government of President Rene Preval has yet to respond.

More than $300 million in foreign aid has been on hold while Parliament considered an internationally backed plan to trim government and privatize state industries. Parliament already has passed privatization bills, and on Wednesday, Haiti’s Senate passed a bill to streamline the government.

Now, the Senate and lower House of parliament, which passed a similar streamlining bill on July 24, must reconcile their two versions before Preval can sign it. Forty percent of Haiti’s budget depends on foreign aid.

Mayors from six of Haiti’s nine administrative districts have threatened to shut down public offices Oct. 1 if the central government fails to increase their operating budgets.

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest nations. More than 60 percent of its 7 million people are jobless or underemployed.

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