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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Algeria

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Algeria, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52caaa2.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 33,900,000
Capital: Algiers
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Union activists are often harassed, subjected to legal action or dismissed. Legal obstacles and a negative attitude among employers make it difficult to set up unions. Two foreign companies sacked activists who were attempting to organise the workforce. In the public sector, the authorities have continued to oppose the emergence of an independent trade union movement.

Trade union rights in law

Limited freedom of association: Workers who have held Algerian nationality for at least ten years have the right to form trade unions. Prior authorisation must be obtained from the government however before a union can operate legally. The law bans unions from associating with political parties and receiving foreign funding. To be registered, unions must send the authorities a declaration announcing their establishment and must obtain official recognition within 30 days.

A union must recruit at least 20 per cent of workers in an enterprise in order for it to be recognised as a representative body.

The courts are empowered to dissolve unions that engage in illegal activities.

Right to strike restricted: The right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution. The law requires a secret ballot of the entire workforce to be held in order to call a strike. A minimum warning of one week is also required. A minimum service to maintain production must be ensured, together with the continuation of activities essential for preserving the safety of people and goods.

The government may prohibit a strike if it feels it may cause a serious economic crisis, a provision which the ILO has repeatedly asked it to repeal. A minimum level of public services must be maintained during public sector service strikes. In accordance with the State of Emergency Rules, decreed in 1992, any action taken with the intention of either obstructing the operation of establishments providing a public service or impeding traffic or freedom of movement in public places, may be considered a subversive or terrorist act, liable to a penalty of up to 20 years' imprisonment.

Collective bargaining recognised: The right to collective bargaining is guaranteed in law for all officially recognised unions, and discrimination by employers against union members is prohibited.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: In December, a number of terrorist attacks – for which an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic group claimed responsibility – targeted the Institutional Council and the buildings of UN agencies, causing 41 deaths. In all, 596 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks and political violence in the course of the year. Mention should also be made of the horrible fate of the dozens of young Algerians, known as "harragas", who drowned at sea attempting to leave their country in unseaworthy craft.

Repression of independent unions: In recent years, numerous independent unions have come under attack from the authorities. Despite their representativeness, particularly in the education and health sectors, and despite their hard-won gains, they have systematically been denied recognition by the authorities. Education International (EI) and Public Services International (PSI) have repeatedly reported that their affiliates are subjected to interference and harassment.

Organising in the public sector obstructed: The public administration workers' union (Syndicat national autonome des personnels de l'administration publique, SNAPAP) has regularly faced harassment and persecution. The government has refused to register the SNAPAP as a national confederation, demanding that it first provide a list of members and membership cards. The ILO has repeatedly reminded the government that such a demand is not consistent with the principles of freedom of association as it would leave the members open to a risk of anti-union discrimination. The SNAPAP has also been prevented from setting up branch unions, notably in hospitals. Organising has been obstructed through the use of sanctions, threats and dismissals in local administrations, in the water sector, public works, customs and in civil defence. Member unions have also frequently been prevented from holding general assemblies. Several other independent unions have been targeted by the authorities, who strive to undermine them by promoting and supporting the creation of sham unions. The independent union for teachers in secondary and technical education, the Conseil National Algérien des Professeurs de l'Enseignement Secondaire et Technique (CNAPEST), and the union for higher education teachers, the Conseil National de l'Enseignement Supérieur (CNES), have faced this kind of problem. The authorities sometimes avoid the registration of a union, by simply refusing to acknowledge receipt of its registration application. The smaller, independent unions face problems because they do not usually represent over 20 per cent of workers in an enterprise, and the fact that temporary contracts are becoming the norm in the public sector also makes joining a union more difficult.

SNAPAP leader suspended and harassed: On 6 June, Sadou Sadek, National Secretary for Trade Union Relations and Rights of the independent union for civil servants, the Syndicat National autonome des Personnels de l'Administration Algérienne (SNAPAP), was suspended from his job at the General Inspectorate, officially because of professional negligence, but in fact because of his trade union activities. For several weeks he was denied access to the trade union office of his workplace in Bejala. He was also subjected to legal proceedings for his involvement in a strike organised by his union. A solidarity action in support of Sadou Sadek was banned by the authorities but nevertheless went ahead. At year's end, however, Sadou Sadek had not yet been reinstated.

Severe penalties sought against two activists of teachers' union: Early in January, Aïssat Kamel and Larabi Mohand, who are members of the union for higher education teachers, the Conseil National de l'Enseignement Supérieur (CNES), were brought before the Court of Bejala. They were accused of "impeding the freedom to work" during a strike organised by the CNES on 13 May 2006. The prosecutor sought a two-year prison term and a heavy fine against them. A few days later, however, they were finally acquitted.

Independent union harassed in education sector: Upon his return from a regional conference of Education International in Cairo, where he had presented a resolution condemning the violation of trade union rights in his country, Abderrazek Salmi, a leader of the independent union of education workers Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de l'Education et de la Formation (SATEF), was suspended from his job as a teacher. He was subsequently reinstated through the intervention and mediation of the General Secretary of the Union Nationale des Personnels de l'Education et de la Formation (UNPEF, National Union of Education Workers).

Compass subsidiary refuses to recognise union. General secretary dismissed and harassed: In July, Yassine Zaid, General Secretary of the local branch of UGTA at Eurest Support Services (ESS), a subsidiary of the Compass Group, was sacked, allegedly for insulting an executive of the company, which acts as a contractor providing meals and accommodation for workers at the Hassi Messaoud oil fields. ESS pressed charges and on 2 December Yassine Zaid was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 dinars (€100) on the basis of false evidence, according to the trade unionist. In December, ESS filed another complaint against him for "libel on the Internet". Yassine Zaid had in fact created a blog in which he described the poor living conditions, including bad food and inadequate sanitary facilities, endured by ESS workers. Yassine Zaid's victimisation began towards the end of 2006, when together with some work colleagues he decided to set up a union. The company's management, which since then has refused all contact with the workers' representatives, insulted two labour inspectors who had been called in by UGTA to apply for recognition of the union. On 30 November, ESS Chief Executive Officer Bill Joel tore up the union's founding document in front of a group of employees.

Trade union leader dismissed from public enterprise: At the beginning of July, in Annaba, industrial pipe manufacturer Alfapipe sacked a union official who had criticised the management of this public company for its poor performance, including the loss of a major maintenance contract. Most of the 570 workers of the Annaba production unit went on strike in protest at the dismissal. The dispute lasted several weeks. Two other union leaders were arrested.

Anti-union dismissals in American-owned company: At the end of November, the company Baker Atlas, based in Hassi Messaoud, dismissed two workers' representatives who had tried to create a union in this subsidiary of the American-owned Baker Hughes Group, the third largest oil services company in the world.

Weak trade union presence in the private sector and the informal economy: These two sectors, both of which have been expanding considerably, are associated with increasingly poor working conditions, non-compliance with labour legislation, lack of social protection and lack of freedom of association. In practice, many private companies consider themselves exempt from compliance with labour regulations and are focused on maximising short-term profits. Employers often do not register most of their workers, thus depriving them of all legally established rights. Workers have no minimum wage, no social security benefits and no pensions. In the textile industry, where women account for a large proportion of the workforce, this precariousness makes it very difficult to organise the workers since they are afraid of losing their jobs if they join a union.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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