Sunday, February 17, 2008

Workers' Actions in Northern Africa

Egypt has been a hotbed for working class action in Africa, and Northern Africa in particular. There has been alot of great activity in the last year, specifically the strikes and workers actions in the text tile industry. The Egyptians have a strong labor movement and hopefully this tide will increase militancy in other Northern African countries worker's movements. Morocco and Algeria are also both seeing alot of working class actions. Keep your eye on these North African countries for the next year or so. They are the more industrialized nations in Africa and are very critical for the revolution in Africa.


Public service workers across Morocco held a one-day strike today and joined mounted protests demanding reforms and better conditions and salaries from the government.

Workers are making a series of demands, many related to reforms of the antiquated civil service statutes, many of which haven't changed since 1958, shortly after independence.

Workers are seeking to improve upon the guaranteed annual increase of 2% won in April last year and are now looking for inflation-based pay increases. They are also demanding the institution of a minimum salary, improved health benefits as well as reforms to the pension system to make benefits more uniform and to increase them for recipients and their dependants.

Other demands include: increasing the quota of internal promotions to 33% and to institute it retroactively for the last 6 years with a special round of promotions; allowing all workers to take professional exams after 4 years of service; revised status for administrators, engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses and all other categories of state workers; creation of a salary grade for primary teachers and nurses; and a reform to the taxation system, including making those on the lowest salaries exempt from taxes

The independent public service doctors' union (SIMSP) has had 35 of its members on strike on a rotating basis since the fifth of February. The union has chosen to rotate 35 striking personnel to maintain patient care but there is a risk that they will extend the action. The union ordered the strike over the grading of medical doctors and several other demands, the government has so far refused to negotiate with the SIMSP as it is 'unrepresentative' in spite of the fact that it is the largest union in the sector representing 50% of doctors.

The workers are also protesting at violations of employment law, specifically over dismissals. The unions claim that 150,000 local government workers are living in poverty.

In other news, Moroccan fishermen ended a 20-day strike today after winning concessions from the government. The government agreed to continue to except them from paying VAT on fuel and to lower the price of fuel sold to fishermen. The government also agreed to devise and implement a strategy that should lead to the creation of 65,000 new jobs in the industry, the doubling of exports and a 33% increase in domestic consumption.

A workers' rally before the headquarters of the Ministry of Economic Development during a meeting for the National Council for wages has been planned for Monday to demand raising the monthly minimum wage for Egyptian workers to LE 1200, said the Coordinating Committee for Union and Workers Rights and Freedoms.

Committee member Khaled Ali told al-Masry al-Youm the Committee and the Labor Solidarity Committee will join ranks with workers across Egypt to organize the rally and the following mass sit-in to demand raising workers' wages to above the minimum poverty level set by the World Bank at two US dollars per day per person.
Ali said if workers failed to stage their protest in front of the Ministry of Economic Development, they will take their protests to the Nile Delta city of Mahala, while stressing that in the event the demands of workers were not met, they would sue all members of the National Council for Wages, including Minister of Finance and Social Security Dr. Youssef Boutros Ghali, Minister of State for Economic Development Dr. Othman Mohamed Othman, Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hadi, in addition to the ministers of provisions, investment, business sector, heads of the Central Authority for Public Mobilization and Statistics, the Central Authority for organization and management, and the secretary general of the National Council for Women.

The number of Egyptian workers who went on strike from December 2006 (the first Ghazl el-Mahalla strike) to September 2007 (the second Ghazl el-Mahalla strike) is estimated to be over 198,400 workers, according to the study coauthored by Mostafa Bassiouni and Omar Said (Page 13). This does not include the workers who staged sit-ins and/or demos. The strikes during this nine-month period led to the loss of 647,133,637 working hours (No, it’s not a typo: Six hundred forty seven million, One hundred and thirty three thousand, and Six hundred thirty seven working hours)…

The Public service trade unions strike in Algeria continues. The Ministry of Education has sent a letter to the provinces education Directions, requiring them the number of teachers on strike, every 2 hours, and implementing severely the salary discount sanctions, as well as the elaboration of lists and detailed reports dealing with the strike progress at every school, then sending them to the Ministry headquarters.
The strike, for which the Coordination of public service Trade unions, CSAFP, has called, is still underway for the second day in a row. Education, health, higher education, professional training, local authorities, and other sectors, have responded to this strike.
Mr. Mohamed Boukhota, the spokesman of Algiers Secondary schools Counsel, which is one the7 public service trade unions of the Coordination, said the 3 days strike is a success for the first day, notably in the education sector, and 116 secondary schools have responded to the strike, the majority of them responded 100%.
“We are obliged to resort to the protests move, because, unfortunately, the Ministry and the Government does not give importance neither to negotiations nor to partnership” said the same source, calling the Education Ministry and the authorities to open new doors for partnership and negotiations, “we are obliged to resort to protests move”, concluded Mr. Boukhota.

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