Respect trade union rights in Algeria

International issues In the increasingly closed Algeria, people are daily being threatened for their struggle for fundamental democratic and trade union rights. The international trade union movement, the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), is now calling on governments and trade unions around the world to take action to improve the situation in Algeria.

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Workers are imprisoned and harassed

In a decree from 2001, all demonstrations in Alger, the capital of Algeria, are banned. In practice, this ban also applies in all other cities and provinces. Consequently, the slightest attempt at protests is brutally struck down. Witness stories from union activists in the country describe how the police use excessive violence and threats to quench the slightest insurgency. At a peaceful demonstration in March earlier this year, 240 union members were arrested and more than 30 union active women were harassed. Leaders of CGATA, one of the organisations that constitute the trade union movement in Algeria, are deported, arrested and refused to be able to attend trade union meetings.

LO now calls on the Algerian ambassador to Sweden to urge the Algerian government to release the imprisoned trade union members and respect trade union rights to negotiate freely and to be entitled to be  registered. LO also calls on the Swedish government to make use of the EU resolution on Algeria, adopted in the European Parliament in 2015, stating that fundamental human rights in working life must be respected.

The global trade union movement will not be awaiting reforms. Our conviction is that increased international pressure is needed to bring about change in Algeria - and it is needed now.

Trade unionists in Algeria need education and training to reinforce the power of union organisations. Increased international solidarity is needed as well. Since long, no external trade union representatives have been allowed to visit Algeria, and therefore there will be an international trade union conference organised in Alger. This event – with more than 200 international trade unionists who will be applying for an entry visa to be able to participate - will serve as an efficient reminder that Algeria must respect fundamental core labour standards.

The ILO conference will examine breach of Conventions

In June, the 106th session of the ILO International Labour Conference will start. Algeria is one of the countries on the long list of cases, which disclosures the countries not having observed ratified ILO Conventions. In the case of Algeria this concerns breaches of Conventions Nos 87 and 98, which stipulate the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining. The workers’ representatives will work hard during the conference to force the Algerian government to account for how the labour market in Algeria can be reformed and increased democracy for workers and trade unions ensured.

There is a major risk that the Algerian government will maintain that reforms and improvements have already been included in the country’s current legislation. It is true that reforms have been undertaken; this has however not improved the social dialogue. Moreover, it has become more difficult for trade unions to act freely. Just ask all women and men unionists who are harassed and intimidated in Algeria every day; they know. Their only aspiration is to create a better life, and therefore it is time that Algeria respects their fundamental rights.

Oscar Ernerot
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