Staff at Niger's Sonitel - which has been in the hands of a Sino-Libyan consortium since last year - have decided to mount a series of strikes to try and have the company renationalised by the Government.

Local reports say that there has been some surprise that the company was sold to a pair of companies that had no experience of operating a telco in sub-Sharan Africa or any familiarity with Niger culture. Others were surprised that Sonatel was passed over as a bidder as it seems to have purchased more or less any other incumbent telco in francophone countries.

More seriously the strikers believe that it was a serious psychological error to appoint a Chinese women as Financial Controller. "La Chinoise" as she is apparently referred to by staff wields more authority than the senior Niger managers. This situation led to the Administrative Director writing an Open Letter to the Government and the Conseil d'Administration. Subsequently the unfortunate Controller was sent back to China and the complaining Administrative Director found himself sent to a more junior post in the interior of Niger.

The Conseil d'Administration has also refused to honour FCFA million of salary increases which staff believe were agreed as part of the sale. Incredibly these include 20% salary increases for those with 0 to 5 years service, 30% for those with 6-10 years service and only 3% for those with over 10 years service. On this basis it's hardly surprising that the company is refusing to pay the salary increases.