5 February, 2018Global unions IndustriALL, ITUC, PSI and IUF, representing some 200 million workers, delivered a letter to the permanent mission of Algeria in Geneva, Switzerland, today (5 February), to protest against the repression of independent trade union leaders in Algeria.
The action took place on the eve of the trial of Abdelkader Kawafi, general secretary of IndustriALL’s energy affiliate SNATEGS, and Kaddour Chouicha, national coordinator of teachers’ union SESS. Both are set to be in court tomorrow 6 February 2018 under accusations of “defamation” and “incitement to unauthorized gathering” for carrying out their legitimate trade union activities.
Dismissed union leader, Benzine Slimane, president of SNATEGS security guards and protection union, will also face trial this week on 8 February. According to the union, he is accused by state energy company Sonelgaz of defamation for talking about precarious work at the company and calling for an end to sexual harassment of female workers.
Furthermore, SNATEGS president, Raouf Mellal is currently appealing numerous court sentences amounting to 17 months in prison and fines totaling 10,000 euros (US$12,300).
Raouf Mellal has been under increasing oppression since he blew the whistle on the illicit inflation of electricity bills by Sonelgaz over a ten-year period affecting eight million households in Algeria.
The protest comes ahead of a planned direct contact mission by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to Algeria at the end of the month. In June 2017, the ILO Committee on the Applications of Standards urged the Government of Algeria to halt all practices of intimidation and police violence against trade union leaders, as well as to proceed immediately with the registration of the independent unions, and the reinstatement of the dismissed workers based on their trade union activism.
In the letter to the Labour Minister in Algeria, Mourad Zemali, delivered to the permanent mission today, the global union leaders said:
“On behalf of all our members around the world, we call on the government to abandon all legal proceedings against the elected representatives and trade unionists of SNATEGS, to immediately and unconditionally reinstate all those who have been dismissed for their union membership and to comply with the ILO recommendations to ensure freedom of association in Algeria.”
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, who along with leaders from PSI and IUF, met with the representative from the Algerian permanent mission, said:
“We made it clear to them that if the government doesn’t engage with us, we’re going to act.”