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2012-04-04

Morocco to withhold pay from protestors

By Mawassi Lahcen for Magharebia in Casablanca – 04/04/12

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The Moroccan government announced last week that it would restrict pay from protesting employees. The decision met with widespread discontent.

Syndicates described the said action as illegal and contradictory to the Moroccan constitution, which explicitly ensures the right to protest. The government, on the other hand, believes the action is line with the global principle of "pay in return for work", generally recognised worldwide.

Protests have been on the rise in recent weeks in Morocco. They have ranged between 24 and 72 hours and more protests are called for in the coming week, including a protest in the health sector on April 4th and 5th and elementary school teachers protests on April 3rd and 4th.

Protests have flared in Morocco since the global financial crisis in 2007. Conditions deteriorated substantially last year in the wake of the Arab Spring with the spread of demonstrations across the region. Protests in 2011 nearly doubled compared to those in previous years.

Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi said in a press conference on March 29th, "The government decided to cut off the pay of protesting employees. [A] ministerial committee… will seek to formulate a global and integrated policy to address the problem of protests."

El Khalfi added that the government would consider the protesters' demands, but still planned to implement the pay cuts.

Al-Arabi Belarabi, undersecretary of the Work Democratic Confederation (WDC), told Magharebia, "The decision to cut off wages so as to curb syndicate action is a step backwards in terms of the government's discourse which promises democracy."

"If the government wishes to be in line with its own discourse, it needs to launch nation-wide dialog with the various classes of society, so as to fully understand the true conditions in society, and the extent of poverty, marginalisation and alienation suffered by large categories of the Moroccan society," he added.

Belarabi added that the government's threat will not be able to halt the wave of protests in Morocco. "Threatening to cut off the pay will not succeed in killing off protests for housing or the soaring cost of water, power, etc., or the protests of the unemployed. What will the Government cut off from those who have no pay, to begin with?"

"It is as if the government is adding fuel to fire," said Baba Al-Netuo, in charge of the health sector at the General Union of Moroccan Workers (UGTM). "The prime trigger of the continued protests is the government's procrastination in implementing the agreements signed with syndicates."

In the 2012 budget currently submitted to the Parliament, the Abdelilah Benkirane cabinet vowed to implement the agreements concluded by the previous governments with the syndicates. The cabinet also noted that the increase in pay, estimated at 14 billion dirhams, based on those agreements, will weigh down heavily on the budget, and inflate the deficit resulting from the subsidy of the local prices of power and raw materials.

Political analyst Nadir Al-Momeni believes that the impact of the expected wage cut-offs will vary by sector. Additionally, the government will bump into a legal problem in attempting to implement it, as such cut-offs are not legally justified.

"The Moroccan constitution ensures the right to protest, and stipulates passing regulations for staging protests. However, all cabinets that came into power since 1962 could not pass a protest-regulating law," Al-Momeni added.

The Benkirane cabinet announced that passing a law for protests was among its top priorities, in addition to a syndicate law, which – according to the government – will seek to upgrade and regulate syndicate work in Morocco.

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    mohammed 2012-4-16

    A few years ago, the members of this government did not agree on salary cuts, but today, on the contrary, they do. Honestly, they understand nothing.

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    sumar 2012-4-13

    The first cuts to some elements in the shadow government, which is seeking to hinder the march of Morocco forward to thwart the government of Benkirane, not to target striking workers.

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    bouazza 2012-4-12

    One step forward and one step back equal nothing at all.

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    Abdo ben ahmed l3alwa 2012-4-11

    Thanks to those who thought of this solution, because what they are doing is a shame. Don't these people on strike have young children? They should understand that they have ruined children. This is a shame and disgrace!

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    hamza 2012-4-11

    Education professionals have exaggerated! We are the ones who are lost, we the sons of the people! There is no more education in the public sector! There are only private courses. They teach us nothing in the classroom, so people should just go and die. Moreover, why this regional exams? You will us with learning lessons by heart? Everything is clear: the scientific is scientific and the literature is literature. They say they want engineers!

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    حميد الجرعاني 2012-4-9

    In my opinion, teachers are divided into two categories. The first is concerned about their country, feel guilt and shame when they are pushed by political unions to deprived pupils and students from the right of education. While the goal of the second is profit, rest, travel and tourism. They don’t care about education or students. As for parents, they hate the name of teacher because it has become an example of someone who earns a living and seek to take a holiday from Friday?! There are many teachers who are concerned about their country, they aren’t interested in illegitimate gain. I wonder why a new law like the highway law is not implemented for teachers who think that manhood is to deprive our sons from education and learning. I apologize to honest teachers as our country still has people who have conscience. If you are really educated, hold strikes on the days of the week-end not for your interest but for the students who have not yet a job. You should rather think of people who are lower than you o teachers we are our students so be teachers for us? I kiss the forehead of our honest teachers who are concerned about this country.

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    ESSOUSSIHASSAN 2012-4-8

    This is the right thing as they have gone too far with their strikes!

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    A.BHT 2012-4-6

    To the strikers at the schools- Think about the children you are leaving outside and their parents, who are mostly poor people. To the officials who are striking- You are better paid than the employees in the private sector. Only the ones in the local administrations and health care deserve a review of their conditions.

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    Mounir 2012-4-5

    I agree with the pay cuts. People who want to protest are in their right. Can they do their protests on times other than office hours? (weekends and evenings). As a citizen it pisses me off, when i go for a service and i hear they are on strike!! sorry, no work , no pay is the right move.

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    علال 2012-4-5

    Non-attendance under the pretext of strike is something inacceptable morally and humanly even if this pretext is to defend the working classes as this hinders public affairs of citizens, ruin domestic economy and deprived pupils of the right to study which leads in turn to the prevalence of the phenomenon of illiteracy to which education sector contributes as it is the main striker. But the victims are children of society who are deprived of their right to education. O Lord this is enormous! This opens the opportunity wide for the working class in the sector of education or other sectors especially people with bad souls who use this non-attendance to do their personal business and usurp the right of the Moroccan people who pay their monthly salary from their hard work through taxes. But we don’t deny that the strike is an international legitimate right for the worker in order to express the harm he incurred from the employer. But this should be within a regulated framework and shouldn’t exceed one hour in a month and covered by the media so that the message reaches those concerned. But those who exceed this limit have committed a crime against the Moroccan people and the government representing them should take strict measures against the striker by deducing from his monthly salary two days for one day of strike so that he will be an example for anyone who wants to violate the Moroccan order in the economic, social, education, health and security sectors.

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