afrol.com, 12 January - As the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues holds its Congress in Morocco (10-14 January) the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in Brussels has condemned the country's anti-union repression.
In a complaint sent to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations specialised agency, the ICFTU points to the connivance between the Moroccan authorities and certain enterprises, particularly multinationals, in preventing any trade union activity at the workplace.
The ICFTU notes that when a trade union was set up in November of last year at a subsidiary of the Irish "Fruit of the Loom" group in the town of Salé - a factory employing over 1,200 workers - a whole arsenal of anti-union tactics was unleashed: the recruitment of militiamen to intimidate participants at the union assembly, the dismissal of eight leaders elected by the grass roots, an employer operation on "a union-free factory" and a press campaign. When the Moroccan Labour Union (UMT), an ICFTU affiliate, reported the case to the governor of Salé, he sided with the "Fruit of the Loom" management, stating bluntly that he didn't want any unions in his prefecture.
The ICFTU immediately contacted the multinational's head office in Ireland, noting that the Irish Prime Minister was currently in Rabat on an official visit.
Meanwhile the General Tire company, initially owned by the Moroccan state and now a part of the German multinational "Continental", chose to close down its factory and leave some 200 people out of work rather than examine their demands. Financial difficulties, which the UMT attributes to the poor management of the company, had led it to cancel the workers' thirteenth month salary and unilaterally reduce it employees' pay.
In a report published last year, the ICFTU had denounced anti-union repression at the Salé free trade zone, in the suburbs of the Moroccan capital Rabat. The zone is occupied by mainly foreign-owned companies producing for export.
The report also notes that 21 Moroccan trade unionists were imprisoned in 1999 for trade union activities, and that they were tortured during their detention.
The ICFTU also condemns the repression of a demonstration on December 9 last year organised by the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) to mark international human rights day. Some 40 demonstrators were arrested outside the parliament in Rabat, including seven UMT leaders and activists.
In a letter sent yesterday to the Moroccan Prime Minister, Mr. Abderrahmane El Youssoufi, the ICFTU asks him to ensure that "all political and administrative authorities scrupulously observe international standards on the freedom of association and enforce their respect". The ICFTU also reported its concerns to the Moroccan minister responsible for human rights.
The Brussels-based ICFTU has 221 affiliated national trade unions in 148 countries and territories, representing 156 million trade unionists around the world. The organisation has tradition in taking action to achieve labour and social rights in Africa and other continents.