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Algerian energy union calls national strike

4 April, 2017IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate in Algeria has announced plans for a three-day national strike by workers at state-owned energy giant, Sonelgaz, on 11,12 and 13 April.

Algerian electricity and gas workers’ union, SNATEGS, is demanding that Sonelgaz, which employs more than 87,000 workers, stops repression of union activities and ends its harassment of trade unionists at the company.

The announcement comes after the peaceful ‘dignity’ strike by Sonelgaz workers in March, asking for respect and higher wages, was met with violence by security forces.  More than 400 people were arrested, including union leaders and SNATEGS president Mellal Raouf. They were eventually released but many reported being beaten by police. 

On 31 March, police aggressively prevented around 200 unionists from taking part in a meeting by blocking entry to SNATEGS headquarters in Bab Ezzouar. The trade unionists, who reported being verbally abused by police, were forced to meet in the street, where they were covertly photographed and videoed. At the meeting, SNATEGS made the decision to organize national strike in April at the country’s second-largest enterprise.

“SNATEGS again appeals to the government to intervene and put an end to these daily violations of law by the police forces, to affirm the recognition of trade union freedoms in Algeria, and respect international commitments with a view to achieving real trade union pluralism and a true democracy in Algeria,” said a statement from SNATEGS.

IndustriALL general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“We deplore the use of violence and oppression against our trade union members. We urge the government, the security forces and Sonelgaz to treat workers with respect and listen to their fair demands.”

Despite opposition from Sonelgaz, SNATEGS has been able to organize more than 30,000 workers at the company in 27 different locations and the union is calling for a mass mobilization for this second ‘dignity strike’.

SNATEGS president, Raouf, has been under pressure from authorities since he revealed extensive corruption at state-owned energy company Sonelgaz. In December 2016, Raouf was sentenced, in absentia, to six months in jail after he exposed the illegal inflation of electricity bills by Sonelgaz over a ten-year period.