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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Morocco

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Morocco, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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: 33,757,000
Capital: Rabat
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Restrictions in the law continue to be used to repress strikes, particularly by women in the textile industry, some of whom faced legal action. There were also mass dismissals for industrial action, in both the textile industry and on a farm producing flowers for export. One trade unionist was killed during the violent police repression of a protest march.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Workers are free to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation, although they have to follow cumbersome administrative procedures. Members of the judiciary are barred from forming trade unions, while domestic and agricultural workers are not covered by the Labour Code, thereby also depriving them of the right to form unions. Trade unions have the right to form federations and affiliate with international workers' organisations.

The right of organisations to elect their representatives in full freedom is curtailed by the requirement that union officials must be of Moroccan nationality.

Labour Code: The 2003 Labour Code, designed to modernise labour relations and make the Moroccan industry more attractive to outside investors, has "flexibility" as its recurring theme. It includes provisions to bring the law into line with ILO Conventions, such as those on maternity and the minimum working age. At the same time, however, the unions complain that it makes it easy for employers to hire temporary staff.

The Labour Code specifically prohibits employers from sacking workers for participating in legitimate union organising, and the courts have the power to reinstate arbitrarily dismissed workers, and can compel employers to pay damages and back pay.

Collective bargaining: The Labour Code recognises the right to collective bargaining, but it can only be conducted by the "most representative" union, which must have at least 35 per cent of the total number of employee delegates elected at the enterprise or establishment level. The law does not clearly stipulate whether certain categories of public servants (teachers, prison officials, lighthouse workers, water and forestry workers) have collective bargaining rights.

Right to strike – heavy penalties: The Constitution guarantees the right to strike. Some restrictions exist however. Civil servants may be punished for taking part in work stoppages or collective acts of indiscipline. Furthermore, under the Penal Code (Article 288) anyone using force, threats or fraudulent activities to cause a work stoppage in order to force a change in wages or that jeopardises the free exercise of work can be sentenced to between one month and two years in prison.

Restrictions on sit-ins, picketing and public demonstrations: Further to a court ruling, sit-ins are prohibited and employers can suspend any worker who prevents non-strikers from going to work for seven days. A second offence during the year can lead to a 15 day suspension.

Under the Labour Code, employers have the right to seek criminal prosecution of any strikers who hold a sit-in, damage property or carry out active picketing. The government can break-up demonstrations in public areas held without government permission, and can prevent factory occupations.

Trade union rights in practice

Women workers' vulnerable: Many workers' rights abuses still occur in the garment industry, where over 70 per cent of employees are women, and most are under 30. Interviewed by the ITUC in 2006, Khadija Ramiri, General Secretary of the Rabat-Salé-Tamara regional organisation of the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT), explained that the non-ratification of ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association continued to pose serious problems in the textile sector. As soon as workers try to form a trade union, its members are dismissed or even arrested. Strike action in particular is met with rapid reprisals, in the form of both dismissals and legal action, as the cases of Dovtex and Dewhirst cited in the Violations section below illustrate.

Abuses in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs): EPZs are beginning to develop, particularly in the port of Tangiers and in Casablanca. Many of the companies in these zones are operating illegally. The companies concerned are often small production units (in the textile or food sectors) and are failing to declare their employees and pay them the minimum wage. Sub-contracting is increasingly common, making union organising particularly difficult.

Violations in 2006

Background: In March the government enacted a law making torture a criminal offence. Reports of torture by the security forces persisted however. The security forces still use force to repress demonstrations, and still enjoy impunity. The freedoms of speech, press and religion remain restricted.

150 workers dismissed for their union membership: The UMT's agricultural workers' federation reported in March that 150 workers had been dismissed by "La Clémentine" farm, producing flowers for export, because of their union membership. Workers at the farm had been involved in a long running battle with the company that runs the farm, the Delassus group, since the union was created in 2004. The General Secretary of the agricultural workers' federation Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole (FNSA-UMT) further reported that whenever workers' protested at their appalling conditions, the local authorities intervened not to enforce the workers' rights but to suppress the right to strike. There had already been violent interventions by the police in 2004 and 2005 resulting in workers' being injured, and trade unionists arrested and sentenced.

Legal action over strike at clothing company: Legal action was taken against ten women working for the Portuguese garment manufacturer Dovtex in Casablanca. The women were arrested and charged in March, under article 288 of the penal code (see "Trade Union Rights in Law" above) after going on strike to demand the reinstatement of 34 colleagues who had been dismissed by the company. The women appeared in court on 14 March together with other trade unionists facing similar charges. Four of them, Nahi Zahra, Saoud Amina, Achkir Amina and Mbarka Dohri were held in preventive custody. The outcome of the trial had not been notified to the ITUC at the time of writing.

Dismissed for his union activities: Ahmed Mohcen, General Secretary of the Safi branch of the CDT-affiliated telecommunications workers' union Syndicat National de la Poste et des Télécommunications (SNPT-CDT), reported that he had been dismissed from his post at a call centre by Maroc Telecom, without justification. He believes that the reason was his trade union role and his participation in the national strike organised by the SNPT/CDT in March and April 2006.

Unionist dies during violent repression of protest march: Moustapha Laaraj, General Secretary of the Tiflet municipal workers' union, affiliated to the UMT, was killed during the police repression of a protest march in Rabat on 29 June. The UMT and the Confédération démocratique du travail (CDT) had organised the march by 6,000 local authority workers from around the country to protest at trade union repression – Mr. Laaraj himself had been suspended from his post because of his trade union activities – and the failure of the authorities to respect a negotiated agreement on issues including a pay review and seniority rights. The march had been declared illegal and the police used excessive force in an attempt to disperse the participants, seriously injuring several as well as killing 34-year-old Mr. Laaraj. Dozens of arrests were made. A sit-in outside the parliament in Rabat on 6 July to protest at the police violence was in turn repressed, and several people had to be hospitalised as a result of their injuries.

Mass dismissals for taking industrial action: On 12 December, 486 workers from Dewhirst Ladieswear in Tangiers were sacked after taking part in industrial action to protest at discrimination against unionised workers and at poor working conditions, including low wages and sexual harassment. The dispute began when the company tried to impose a unilaterally prepared collective agreement. When the union, the Union Nationale du Travail au Maroc (UNTM) asked to negotiate the contents of the agreement, management refused and instead began to take reprisals against trade unionists. Matters came to a head on 8 December when salaries were paid to non-union members only. In response the workers, mostly women, stopped work for a day and organised a sit-in in the canteen, which resulted in the dismissals. The plant employed a total of 1,050 workers.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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