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Unions give lukewarm verdict on tens years of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)

ICFTU OnLine..., 040/990223/LD, 23 February 1999

Brussels, February 23 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): The Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) has not achieved its objectives nor has it been capable of integrating a social dimension into its work. That was the verdict of the region’s trade unions, represented by the union of Arab Maghreb workers’ unions (L’union des syndicats des travailleurs du Maghreb arabe - USTMA) meeting in Casablanca on the tenth anniversary of the UMA.

According to the USTMA, the economic and social integration of the five Maghreb countries (the UMA, created in February 1989, is composed of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia) is essential for the region’s development, both in terms of trade and internal cooperation, and for the Maghreb’s relations with its external partners, notably the European Union. In ten years, however, the UMA has made virtually no progress on the objectives it set for itself, said the trade union leaders.

Recalling the common policy set out by the UMA, divided into four main areas (international relations, defence, economy and culture), the USTMA trade union leaders regretted that the important issue of social progress was absent from the explicit objectives set out in the Union’s founding treaty.

The USTMA has called on the Maghreb governments to implement an effective policy of regional cooperation and construction and urged them to redefine the UMA’s objectives to adapt them to the age of globalisation. The USTMA believes such policies should be based on the principles of social justice, democracy and dialogue with all the political and civil forces of the region and on tripartite (government, employer, trade union) cooperation, with respect for trade union rights. The USTMA’s proposals and demands were set out in a memorandum addressed to the UMA leaders, in which the trade unions specify the modalities of the active participation of the trade union movement in the integration process.

The USTMA trade unions had the support of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), represented by the Assistant General Secretary, Eddy Laurijssen, at the Casablanca meeting.

The ICFTU believes regional integration is indispensable for the economic and social development of Arab Maghreb stated Eddy Laurijssen who sees it as an opportunity for the countries and the people of the Maghreb to win their rightful place in the construction of a globalised economy.

The ICFTU representative added that in this spirit, the UMA treaties must include a social dimension or a social charter, a matter in which the ICFTU is prepared to give its full support to the USTMA.

With unemployment rates reaching unacceptable levels in some countries, hitting hardest at the youth of the Maghreb, the generalised fall in workers’ buying power and the undermining of social gains, the USTMA trade unions have demanded that social issues be given prominence in the integration process. Particularly given that the structural adjustment programmes applied in several countries are further aggravating social problems.

Created in December 1989, the USTMA has close relations with the ICFTU. The USTMA is based in Tunis.