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Algeria: union leaders released but oppression continues

12 December, 201713 December ***UPDATE*** IndustriALL Global Union is relieved to learn that two Algerian trade union leaders detained by authorities on 12 December have been released. But government oppression of their union, SNATEGS, continues. 

Abdelkader Koufi, general secretary of oil and electricity union, SNATEGS, and Mohamed Al Amin Sulimani, president of the SNATEGS national youth committee, were detained on 12 December while taking part in a peaceful protest against the illegal and false dissolution of the union by the government.

According to reports, both of the arrested men were attacked by police with electric batons and have had their phones shut down. Abdelkader Koufi has been charged with threatening public safety, while Mohamed Al Amin Sulimani has been accused of photographing the police during an intervention, says SNATEGS.

The protest took place while the Ministry of Labour was holding a press conference to justify its announcement on 3 December that SNATEGS had been voluntarily dissolved during a meeting by its union members.

However, SNATEGS leadership strongly contests the claim. None of the union leaders are aware of any such meeting. Furthermore, the meeting would not have the authority to dissolve the union, a decision that, according to the union’s statutes, can only be made at a national congress.

Since the Ministry of Labour announced the dissolution, SNATEGS’ bank accounts have been frozen.

SNATEGS president, Raouf Mellal, said:

“The reality is that the Ministry of Labour wants at any cost to dissolve our union because SNATEGS is the first independent union founded in the economic sector in Algeria. Our battle is to free the workers of economic and industrial sector in Algeria.”

IndustriALL wrote to the Algerian Minister of Labour and Social Security on 11 December calling on the government to revoke the illegitimate dissolution of the union. The Ministry’s action not only violates national legislation but also shows evidence of strong governmental interference in the internal affairs of the trade union, violating ILO Convention 87 ratified by Algeria in 1962.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“IndustriALL will stand by SNATEGS until the government of Algeria stops harrassing and intimidating its members and accepts that a strong and independent trade union movement is vital to democratic society.”

SNATEGS has been under continued attack from the authorities in Algeria for the last two years. The government tried to withdraw registration of the union in May 2017, while President Raouf Mellal is facing a prison sentence for his trade union activities and blowing the whistle on corruption at state electricity provider Sonelgaz.