After 5 months on strike, workers at Maghreb Steel face serious acts of repression, discrimination and harassment.
Industrial tensions at Maghreb Steel have escalated to the extent that sit in protests on 12 and 17 May 2016 were violently attacked by police.
The Maghreb Steel Union, which is affiliated to the Moroccan national centre Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT), held sit in protests outside the offices of the banks that had bailed out the troubled steel company. The protests by 630 workers were attacked by police, and several workers were injured.
Maghreb Steel was formed in 1975, but it was not until March last year that workers affiliated to the UMT opened a union office. The union held a first strike in August 2015 after members were dismissed for demanding a wage increase. After this, a conciliation meeting between representatives of the company and union resulted in the signing of a social and ethical charter, with management committing to respect the right of workers to unionize.
The company ignored its commitments and dismissed 7 workers, including union leaders, in November, resulting in a second strike that began in December last year. Attacks on the union have multiplied, and the company is now in violation of the law, refusing to pay union activists, and hiring scab labour to replace striking workers, in violation of Morocco’s Labour Code.
The Moroccan Constitution guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike, and Morocco has ratified ILO Conventions 98, 135 and 154. These conventions protect the right to strike, recognize union representatives, promote collective bargaining and protect against prejudicial treatment of union activists.
Maghreb Steel is the only plant in Morocco producing the steel plate necessary for auto production, and supplies steel to the Renault plant in Tangier. The company also has advanced plans to supply PSA Peugeot Citroën, which is to build an assembly plant in northern Morocco. IndustriALL has global framework agreements with both these companies that cover the entire supply chain, and intends to use these agreements to put pressure on the company.
The steel plant has suffered financially, and recently applied via the Moroccan government for safeguard measures against dumping.
Maghreb Steel workers are demanding:
- A return to work and reinstatement of all dismissed activists
- The cancellation of all abusive cases against activists
- The right to organize
- The opening of a dialogue and serious negotiations with the union
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assitant general secretary, said:
“We support the Maghreb Steel workers in their demand for dignity and fundamental trade union rights. We have written to the company, to the Moroccan government and to the company’s clients to express our dismay at this behaviour, and to demand that the company recognizes the union and reinstates the activists who were dismissed.”