Casablanca, Asharq Al-Awsat—Three leading labor unions in Morocco have announced they will hold an open march in Casablanca on April 6 to protest the “deterioration in the social and economic conditions of the working class” due to what they said was government failure to address these issues.
The Moroccan Labor Union (Union Marocaine de travail), the Democratic Confederation for Labor (Confédération démocratique du travail) and the Democratic Federation for Labor (Fédération démocratique du travail) made the announcement in a joint statement issued Tuesday, saying it would be a national protest march to defend “purchasing power, dignity, liberty, and social equality.”
The unions said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s government had “underestimated Moroccan labor unions,” and had “acted irresponsibly” toward them.
Secretary-General of the Moroccan Labor Union Elmeloudy Mokhareq said: “We will hold a huge and successful march in order to get the attention of the government to improve the conditions and [respond to] the demands of the workers.”
According to reports in the Moroccan press quoting mid-level union leaders unions, a march in Rabat is also being planned, most likely on Labor Day on May 1.
Mokhareq added that May 1 would be “a day of protest” against Benkirane’s government, and that the marchers would be seeking to “realize the demands of the working class.” He said that there would be a possibility to organize “a unified march” involving all Morocco’s labor unions.
This is the latest escalation in a dispute between the three unions and the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane over what the unions say is the government’s failure to fulfill its responsibilities under an agreement made on April 26, 2011, to improve civil servants’ salaries and raise the minimum wage and minimum pension.
In January, the unions decided to end their participation in a dialogue with the government, which they said was failing to protect the rights of workers as outlined in the 2011 agreement, in particular due to a unilateral government plan to reform the pension scheme. They then agreed in late January to work together to press the government on these issues.
In February, they issued a joint memorandum calling for a tripartite dialogue with the government to address workers’ issues. Although Prime Minister Benkirane is reported to have responded positively to that memorandum, no such dialogue between the government and the unions has yet been opened.
Mokhareq said that the memorandum had demanded “substantive negotiations and dialogue on the working classes in Morocco” and in order for the government to respond to the “genuine and just demands of the workers.”
Abdelqader El-Zayer of the Democratic Confederation for Labor said: “If social conditions are not positive it threatens national security, which necessitates the improvement of conditions and meet the demands of the working class.”
Secretary-General of the Democratic Confederation for Labor Abdelrahman Elazouzy said the marches would be “the first step” in an escalation of the situation against the government if the latter did not acknowledge the demands of the workers.