Algerian public sector workers strike over new pay scale
By Mohand Ouali for Magharebia in Algiers – 16/01/08
Union workers across Algeria joined in a one-day national strike on Tuesday (January 15th) to protest the country's new pay scale. Meeting at the National Co-ordinating Committee for Independent Public Sector Unions (CNSAFP), the unions represent state and higher education, health care workers and government administrators. Notice of the strike was given on January 7th.
The workers are challenging certain elements of their individual terms of employment as well as the new national wage structure, which has failed to meet their expectations. Many accuse authorities of not following through on their promises.
The group of unions also claim the government refuses to recognise their legitimacy. In fact, when the new terms of employment for public sector workers were drafted along with the pay scale, the government recognised only the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) for the purposes of negotiation.
Speaking on the eve of the strike, CNSAFP spokesman Meziane Meriane decried the marginalisation of the unions, saying the current stoppage is just a prelude to further protest.
Meriane said the strike had been called in response to "the erosion of the purchasing power of public sector workers and the public in general, cancelling out the pay increases, and the intransigent attitude adopted by management since 2003".
The strike was largely honoured by workers on Tuesday, though the stoppage was not universal.
In the morning, Meriane told the press the Independent Algerian Customs Union had also joined the protest movement.
He stated later that day that participation had reached 100% in several wilayas across the country, such as Tizi Ouzou, Oran, Biskra, Ouargla, Adrar, Ghardaïa, Béchar and others.
Teachers in public schools also gave their backing to the call. In some areas of Algiers, all high school and college classes were suspended. Similar scenes were repeated in the communes of Hussein Dey, El Biar, Ben Aknoun, Bachdjarah and Bab Ezzouar.
At Emir Abdelkader high school, a stronghold of the Algerian High Schools' Council (CLA), protest was in the air, even though the strike call was not heeded by all the teachers. "Only 50% of teaching staff joined the walkout," one teacher said.
Public health practitioners and specialists broadly observed the strike. At a general meeting at the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre (CPMC), SNPDSM (teachers and doctors of medical science) Secretary-General Jijeli Naceredine expressed his union’s commitment to carrying out further action. The SNPDSM leader said, "The primary motive is to protest our exclusion from the negotiations."
University hospitals decided to hold an additional three-day strike, from February 16th to 21st. "We have been patient, but nothing has been done," said pneumologist and professor Zidoum of Beni Messous Hospital in Algiers.
The UGTA, which led the union party in the negotiations, indicated via National Secretary Ali M’Rabet that a meeting including the eight federations representing public sector workers within the UGTA would take place on Sunday to evaluate progress with the terms of employment for public sector workers. The application of the new pay scale, insofar as it depends upon the finalisation of the new terms of employment, will also be examined.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.