Population: 32,000,000
Capital: Rabat

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Threats: 6
Imprisonments: 2
Dismissals: 94

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Trade union freedoms are heavily curtailed in practice. The sudden spread of temporary work, export processing zones and sub-contracting makes organising very difficult. The number of strikes has steadily increased and they are often repressed by employers and the authorities.


In the wake of the Arab Spring, the 20th February movement, bringing together youths, cyber activists and Islamists, came out onto the streets to demand an end to corruption, greater social justice and constitutional reforms. The regime reacted by repressing the demonstrations, sometimes very severely. King Mohammed VI helped calm the unrest slightly by promising reforms. A revised Constitution was adopted by referendum in July and legislative elections in November were won by the Islamists of the Justice and Development Party. In April, 15 people died in a terrorist attack in a café in Marrakech.

Trade union rights in law

Although constitutional guarantees for freedom of association are in place, it is restricted by provisions in the Labour Code. Certain categories of workers are not allowed to form trade unions, including public servants, members of the judiciary, domestic workers and agricultural workers, and all union officials must be of Moroccan nationality.

Collective bargaining is confined to the most representative union, which must represent at least 35% of the total number of employees at the enterprise level. Despite the fact that the right to strike is guaranteed in the Constitution, employers are permitted to seek criminal prosecution of any strikers who hold a sit-in, damage property or carry out active picketing.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Export processing zones expanding as unions face major challenges:

Organising in Morocco's export processing zones is very difficult. The zones are spreading rapidly across several regions and sectors of activity in Morocco. The biggest project is the transformation of the port at Tangiers into an international logistics hub. Activities in the zones are diversifying, and now cover the service sector (call centres, off-shore banking, information technology etc.) car manufacturing and aeronautics.

Trade union access to the zones is heavily restricted, making freedom of association almost impossible in practice.

Workers are too scared to form trade unions, for fear of losing their jobs.

The labour inspection service claims there are few problems concerning the respect of workers' rights in the zones but gives no statistics to back up this claim.

New translation: Strikes the only resort:

The number of strikes continued to rise in 2011. Even when taking into account the wave of protests linked to the Arab Spring, this rise is testament to the lack of social dialogue at enterprise level, and the employers' contempt for the legitimate demands of their workers, few of whom have union representation (6% of the working population and about 20 national trade union federations). Although social dialogue does exist at the national level, the trade union battle is often frowned on by public opinion, as was seen during strikes by workers in the justice system, local authorities or education in 2011. Yet striking is often the only means workers have to make themselves heard.

It is easy for employers to ignore the Labour Code thanks to the very weak labour inspection system. There are only 12 collective agreements which, like other legal provisions, are rarely respected. Yet the authorities and employers are quick to invoke legal restrictions when it comes to the right to strike or laws about disrupting the operations of the workplace to penalise strikers.

The main national trade union centres, including the three affiliated to the ITUC, have repeatedly denounced violations of freedom of association, for example at the National Agency for the Regulation of Telecommunications (ANRA), Maroc Telecom, Royal Air Maroc, Domaines Agricoles, Autoroutes du Maroc, to mention just a few cases, but such violations are widespread across every sector of activity.


Mass dismissal of temporary workers who tried to form a union: In April, 92 workers on temporary contracts at the Autoroutes du Maroc (Marocco Motorways ADM) Bouskoura operations centre were dismissed for trying to set up a trade union to seek recognition as ADM employees. The 900 mobile agents and toll collectors at all the operations centre across the country are employed through seven temporary employment agencies and many are not registered in the social security system. For several months, ADM refused to negotiate with the rebellious workers on the pretext that they were not ADM employees. After a strike was called on 19 July, management finally deigned to meet them and on 1 August, signed an agreement with the union, the Syndicat des employés des centres d'exploitation d'ADM, affiliated to the national centre the Union marocaine du travail (UMT). In the agreement ADM promised to take all necessary measures to oblige the temporary employment agencies to respect the Labour Code in full and to reinstate the 92 workers.

Call centre dismisses two trade unionists: On 1 April, in response to the creation of a trade union at the Rabat de Webhelp-Maroc site, management dismissed the treasurer of the new organisation, affiliated to the national centre the Confédération démocratique du travail (CDT), and then dismissed the general secretary on 18 April. Management also called in the police to question another member of the union.

Heavy prison terms for two CDT leaders: On 26 May Seddik Kabbouri and Mahjoub Chenou, both leaders of the local branch of the Confédération démocratique du travail (CDT) national centre and community activists, were arrested while taking part in a rally outside the Bouarfa court in solidarity with nine young activists on trial there for their participation in a demonstration on 18 May. The demonstration was in protest at the rising cost of living and to call for social justice and had been harshly repressed by police. On 26 July Seddik Kabbouri was given a two month prison sentence. Mahjoub Chenou and the other activists were handed 18-month terms.

Trade union victory at the docks despite tenacious employer opposition: On 12 August, dockers at the Eurogate Tangiers Mediterranean port held a 24 hour warning strike in response to management's refusal to even meet the union, let alone take on board their demands for improved pay and working conditions. Meetings took place between trade unionists from the transport section of the Union marocaine du travail (UMT) national centre and management, but the trade union's demands were not really taken seriously, leading to further paralysis at the Eurogate terminal on 18 September. Finally, on 16 November, after nine hours of negotiations, the employer agreed to recognise trade union rights and to negotiate a collective agreement with the dockers' representatives by the end of 2012. The Eurogate terminal is in the Tangiers export processing zone, next to APM Terminals, a giant in the sector, where an employer-union agreement was signed in February after several strikes. In both cases the unions were supported by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) within the framework of its Global Network Terminals (GNT) campaign.

Harassment and sanctions at Royal Air Maroc: The day after a sit-in on 13 February at Casablanca airport that did not disrupt air traffic, five members of the local office of the Royal Air Maroc (RAM) union affiliated to the national trade union federation Union générale des travailleurs du Maroc (UGTM-RAM), including the General Secretary, were suspended from their posts. The human resources manager reversed the decision however on 15 February. At the beginning of March, RAM entered into another trial of strength with the flight crew of Atlas Blue, a low cost subsidiary, where more precarious contracts had been imposed, in violation of labour legislation. UGTM members had already been targeted by the employer in 2010 (see the 2011 edition of the Survey).

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