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MENA auto unions meet in Morocco as car industry booms

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14 April, 2016Over 60 participants representing automotive workers in several transnational companies (TNCs) and their suppliers in the MENA region, gathered in Casablanca on 15 and 16 of March 2016 to look at ways of improving working conditions in the auto supply chain. 

The Automotive and supply chain MENA workshop, which was organized by IndustriALL Global Union and supported by FES, also included leaders of the metal and auto unions in Tunisia, Morocco, Germany, France and Spain.

Following the first MENA meeting of Auto and suppliers last April in Beirut, participants in Casablanca launched in-depth discussions on the development and expansion of car industry and its supply chain in North Africa.  

Union leaders and workers from a number of TNCs including Kromberg & Schubert, PSA, Ford, Leoni, VETE, Renault, CFCA, CAC, Auto Nejma (Morocco exclusive distributer of Mercedes-Benz, SsangYong, Jeep, Dodge, FAW), Yazaki, Irizar Maroc S.A, Dräxlmaier, VALEO, BMW and CFAO Motors Maroc (exclusive Moroccan distributor for Opel and Chevrolet) and Volkswagen, discussed improving working conditions for workers in auto supply chain through the implementation of Global Framework Agreements (GFAs), union networking, cooperation and solidarity.

The two day meeting intensified the discussions on labour legislation, union structures, collective agreements/agreements at plant or company level, ratification of ILO relevant Conventions 87/98, guarantees of freedom of association in national legislation, main labour legislations and protection for trade unionists. The detailed exchange served as key baseline for progressing and expanding the cooperation between MENA and European unions. Examples of successful cooperation between Renault French and Moroccan unions and Leoni Tunisian and German unions were introduced.

The discussion also addressed the global auto and supply industry, major actors and future trends, problems and workers challenges in the MENA region, experiences of union cooperation, strengthening and empowering in the sector.

Women were active participants in the meeting, four of whom made presentations during the workshop.

Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are the key auto and supplier countries in MENA region. This is due to the fast growing automobile market in the Middle East and North Africa, rising disposable incomes, urbanization, investments incentives, the low cost of workforce and continuous investments in infrastructure.

Tunisia has 84 companies employing more than 60,000 people in the industry with a turnover of US$2 billion. Morocco has around 200 companies that employ 85,000 workers and produce 167000 units annually. Egypt produces 100,000 units annually and has 26 car assembly plants in addition to 338 feeders factories that employs more than 70,000 workers.  Algeria attracts more auto and suppliers investment as Renault plans by 2019 to triple its production to 75,000 units. Also, Daimler is planning to increase its production in the country.

The meeting concluded with an action plan to support the sectorial work of the industry in MENA countries; enhance networking at company level as well as cooperation between MENA and origin countries of the operating TNCs; improving the implementation of the existing GFAs through enhancing and including more MENA unions into the ongoing union cooperation and reaching more suppliers’ workers; and increasing MENA union capacity on organizing in the auto supply chain.

IndustriALL’s automotive sector director, Helmut Lense, said:

“The expansion of the auto industry in the MENA region is a good development with regard to job creation, given the high percentage of unemployment amongst youth in the region. However, the nature of such an industry, which relies on global supply chains, imposes several challenges on workers. IndustriALL’s existing auto networks, GFAs and solidarity from affiliates will help to improve workers rights in the auto sector in the Mena region.”