ILO Calls on Algerian Government to respect Labour Rights
Algeria Interface, September 18, 2002
The International Labor Organization has urged the Algerian government to uphold the right to a pluralistic labour movement. Its words have fallen on deaf ears.
Algiers, 18/09/02 – President Bouteflika recently approved the results of the latest bipartite meeting between the government and labour confederation, UGTA, which saw 550,000 public employees get a wage rise. Strangely, the UGTA does not even represent them.
The dominant civil servants union is the independent National Union of Public Employees (SNAPAP), which boasts a membership of 400,000. It was not invited to the meeting. The government talks only to the UGTA, which it considers the sole representative of Algeria’s work force.
Trade unions were once banned in the civil service, which was deemed to be covered by national sovereignty. It was only in 1990, which saw the advent of political pluralism in Algeria, that the SNAPAP came into being.
Its membership has grown steadily, while the UGTA has, on the contrary, seen its influence wane. Nevertheless, it sits on the boards of a number of public bodies and enjoys a government subsidy based on the number of members. It claims it has two million but since the figures are not in the public domain, any independent verification is impossible. Its government funding is a sinecure according to a former government minister.
The SNAPAP believes the UGTA is a government protégé which, were it to stand in any election, would be swept out of the labour movement.
Everything points to the regime refusing to recognise independent unions for fear of losing its grip over the labour movement.
The new labour and social minister, Tayeb Louh, head of an independent magistrates’ union, had his knuckles sharply rapped by prime minister Benflis when he opened talks with the SNAPAP before the bipartite meeting.
There was hope of change in the shape of new independent unions in higher and secondary education and in the health sector. But once again the breach in the monopoly of the UGTA was foiled by the government which refused to recognise the unions.
When the SNAPAP tried to create the National Union of Algerian Workers (SNATA) and the National Union of Independent Unions (CASA), the government refused to recognise them.
SNAPAP lodged a complaint with the ILO in 2001 which called on the government to take all necessary measures to ensure that the members of SNAPAP could create their own federations and confederations and to affiliate with them.
Since then nothing has changed.