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Global unions unite to support independent trade unions in Algeria

07.06.2018

Global unions rallied outside the United Nations in Geneva on 6 June 2018 to protest against the persecution of independent trade unions in Algeria.  

The rally, supported by IndustriALL Global Union, IUF, PSI, ITUC plus trade unionists from many countries, took place during the International Labour Conference being held at the United Nations from 28 May to 8 June. The Algerian government has been under examination by the Committee on the Application of Standards at the ILC for repeated violations of ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association in the country. 

It is the fourth time in the last five years that Algeria has been chosen for special attention by CAS. In February this year, an ILO direct-contact mission, recommended by CAS in June 2017, had to be cancelled after the Algerian government refused to allow access to independent unions.

Speaking at the CAS discussion on Algeria, Raouf Mellal, President of IndustriALL energy affiliate SNATEGS, said: 

“We have been subjected to a terrible campaign of repression, despite Algeria's ratification of most of the international conventions devoted to trade union freedoms.” 

He told the Committee that the Ministry of Labour has twice sought to dissolve his union, in direct contradiction of Algerian law. More than 223 union leaders have been dismissed in 2017 because of their involvement in SNATEGS. Meanwhile, Raouf Mellal and two other SNATEGS leaders, General Secretary, Mr. Abdelkader Kouafi, and Bin Al-Zain Sulaiman, head of the SNATEGS affiliated Security Guards Trade Union, have all been sentenced to prison on various charges related to whistleblowing, defamation and even speaking in defense of a woman who faced sexual harassment at work.

The CAS also heard testimony from the Autonomous General Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA), which has been waiting in vain for formal legal recognition since 2013, a procedure which according to law requires no more than 30 days. 

Public sector union, SNAPAP, told the Committee that the Algerian authorities had set up a state-backed organization with the same name. Every time SNAPAP tries to organize a union branch, the local administration and security forces intimidate workers to join the clone organization instead.

During the CAS discussion on Algeria, Employers’ Group spokesperson, Sonia Regenbogen, expressed disappointment that the ILO mission failed to take place. 

In the conclusions of the CAS discussion on Algeria, the Committee recommended the government now accepts a high-level ILO mission to the country, without restriction, before November 2018. 

Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary at IndustriALL, said: 

“We urge the Algerian government to accept a high-level mission from the ILO, without conditions, to allow for a proper examination of trade union freedoms. The democratic voice of workers in Algeria will not be silenced and we will continue to give our support to independent unions in the country.”