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Global labour group releases damning report on anti-union repression in Morocco

ICFTU OnLine, 195/991020/ND, 20 October 1999

Brussels, 20th October 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): Just as Morocco enjoys renewed sympathy on the international scene, owing to repeated signs of democratic opening given by the new monarch, King Mohammed VI, and on the eve of an official visit by the Prime Minister to the European Union, the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has accused his government of resorting to arrests, torture and harsh prison sentences against dozens of trade unionists belonging to the Union marocaine du Travail (UMT, the ICFTU’s affiliated national trade union centre in Morocco).

Indeed, the ICFTU today, 20th October, strongly denounced what it termed a stepped-up wave of anti-union repression in the country. Writing today, for the third time in six weeks, to Prime Minister Abderrahmane El Youssoufi, the ICFTU protested strongly against the detention of six UMT trade unionists, arrested on 7th October during a strike in an agricultural enterprise in Belksiri (Sidi Kacem). They were due to appear in court yesterday in Sidi Kacem, facing charges of obstructing the freedom to work.

In a memorandum (http://www.icftu.org/french/pr/1999/fprol195b-99.html) handed out today to several member of the European Parliament, on the eve of their meeting tomorrow, 21st October, with the Moroccan prime Minister, the ICFTU denounced several other recent cases of arrests, beatings and torture, as well as the multiple sentences - some as high as one year imprisonment! - meted out for strike action. The sentences were pronounced both in an industrial conflict affecting the Trade Union of Fishermen (Syndicat des Marins Pêcheurs, affiliated with the UMT), and following a strike in a an egg- farm, AVITEMA, in Témara Province. The UMT is also confronting an offensive launched jointly by employers and the authorities in the textile producing Salé region, particularly at a plant called MORTEX.

Since early September 1999, no less than 30 trade unionists have been arrested and sentenced to prison terms and fines, while several hundred have purely and simply been sacked for going on strike. The ICFTU has no doubt that their continuous detention indicates a hardening of Morocco’s authorities towards the trade union movement. According to the ICFTU, this attitude is all the more incomprehensible, given that is clashes head-on with the new climate of political and social opening announced in recent weeks by the highest authorities in the Kingdom.

Meanwhile the ICFTU recalls that its lodged a complaint against the Government of Morocco on 21 September 1999 with the International Labour Office (ILO), a UN agency, thus lending its support to a procedure launched before the same body by its affiliate, the UMT. In the meantime, it has also conveyed to PM Abderrahmane El Youssoufi its intention to launch a pressure campaign at international financial institutions with a view to having economic aid to Morocco suspended, in case repression against trade unionists persists in the country.