Moroccan government bracing for public sector strikes

The unions blame the Interior Ministry and the presidents of municipalities for the deteriorating situation and catastrophic working conditions.
Sunday 13/01/2019
Moroccans chant slogans and hold up anti-government signs during a protest in Rabat, last November. (AFP)
Bumpy start. Moroccans chant slogans and hold up anti-government signs during a protest in Rabat, last November. (AFP)

The Moroccan government is bracing for a tough start to 2019 following main trade unions’ call for a nationwide strike of local authorities because of “catastrophic” working conditions.

The Moroccan Workers’ Union, the Democratic Confederation of Labour, the Democratic Federation of Labour (FDT) and the General Union of Moroccan Workers called on local government officials and employees to observe a 24-hour national strike January 17, a statement by the unions said.

The unions blame the Interior Ministry and the presidents of municipalities for the deteriorating situation and catastrophic working conditions.

Several trade unions failed last November to reach an agreement with the government on workers’ wage demands. They accused Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani’s government of being “insensitive” to civil servants’ concerns.

Othmani, who vowed to improve Moroccans’ standard of living, is facing one of his toughest times in office as he seeks invigorate stalled dialogue with the trade unions.

Moroccan media reported that Othmani had been dismissed from leading dialogue with the unions but he insisted that he instructed Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit to meet with union leaders to avert the strike.

“The agreements reached in 2011 were made while the government’s mandate was about to expire,” Othmani told parliament. “We have no complex since we put together the meetings to reach a solution.”

Othmani said that he met with the finance minister on possible improvements in the social conditions of civil servants.

Laftit seems to be making progress following his meeting January 9 with representatives of the National Labour Union of Morocco (UNTM), which backs the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party.

“The meeting was characterised by a positive and responsible atmosphere in which both sides discussed ways to correct the path of social dialogue between the government and the trade union and exchanged views to improve the government’s proposal made during the last cycle of social dialogue,” UNTM said in a statement.

“This meeting, although not a round of negotiations, was an opportunity for UNTM leaders to renew their desire to reach a concerted social agreement that meets the expectations and claims of Moroccan workers.”

Public sector doctors are threatening to strike for two weeks in April. The Independent Union of Public Sector Doctors said the planned strike came after it repeatedly asked the government to meet its claims. The union said in a statement that affiliated doctors would also strike, which would cause the suspension of surgical operations in public hospitals, except in emergencies.

The union insisted that the health sector suffers from the lack of a clear national strategy that meets the demands of citizens and solves the structural problems facing it.

Among its claims is the provision of equipment and logistical means to deal with urgent cases. The union also wants a revaluation of the basic salary scale.

“The working conditions in most public hospitals are deteriorating day after day. The sheer proof is the king’s speech last year that called on the government to focus on health and education,” said a doctor who asked to remain anonymous.

“Patients always blame us for underperforming but how can you work without equipment? It is like asking someone to drive a car without its engine,” he said.

Public education employees went on a nationwide strike January 3 after negotiations between education unions and the Education Ministry reached an impasse last year.

“The strike was a great success. The participation rate has been around 100% in all regions of the kingdom,” said Sadek Rghioui, secretary-general of the National Education Union, which is affiliated with FDT.

The national coordination of most teachers’ unions demanded the immediate promotion of their staff classified in salary scale 9 besides the integration of contracted teachers into the public service.

Abderrazzak Idrissi, secretary-general of the National Federation for Education, told Moroccan TV channel 2M that the strike was dictated by the ministry’s neglect of teachers’ demands.

Idrissi called for serious and real dialogue to find a just and fair solution to their problem.

Prior to the strike, Education Minister Said Amzazi told parliament that his department was aware of the situation and would ensure the pace of the teachers’ promotion was accelerated.

Teachers have been increasing protest movements since the beginning of the school year to pressure the government to meet their demands.

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