The autonomous labor unions: a true force of change in Algeria

Publié le par Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Demonstration of doctors in Constantine. DR.

Demonstration of doctors in Constantine. DR.

For several months, major strikes and major demonstrations have been taking place in Algeria, affecting two strategic sectors: education and health.

The teachers have not yet obtained much from their claims and the labor union of education is in full negotiations with the ministry concerning return in their post of the workers whom the minister had radiated.

At the level of the resident doctors who have just created a big labor union, the CAMRA (autonomous Collective of the Algerian resident doctors), the strike movement is still going on.

Through these two struggles, the Algerians gave a lesson to this regime belonging to another era; they have shown that the Algerian can go on strike, organize demonstrations and sit-ins in complete serenity, without violence or incivility, to demand salary increases, good working conditions, in short to claim his legitimate rights. The history of Algeria is there to testify that it was in the trade union movement among others that the revolutionary militants who fought against colonialism were formed. I had the honor of knowing the comrade Demène Debbih Abdallah at the time when I worked for Alger Républicain. Si Abdallah and his comrades were great activists who had started the struggle in the 1940s. From the trade union struggle, these activists have moved towards the political struggle. The current union struggles, which some are calling corporatist struggles, are very important because they help to shape the political activists of the future. These young people who are fighting for their rights today are the politicians of tomorrow. They come from the CGATA (Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria), the CNAPESTE (Autonomous National Council of Teachers of ternary education sector), the CAMRA (Autonomous Collective of Algerian Resident Doctors), the SNATEG (Autonomous Union of Electricity and Gas Workers) and all the fighting autonomous unions that will recognize themselves. There is nothing better than union space to learn politics. Organizing strikes, protesting, collecting money to support strikers who are victims of the wage freeze, as in the case of resident doctors, all of this requires maturity, commitment, honesty and a sense of duty. I am happy to see younger generation meeting and discussing new ideas, holding general meetings and claim its rights. It is in that way that a movement of change, long perhaps, but promising is constructed. These young people gave a masterful lesson in citizenship and commitment to a completely outdated government that has repeatedly proven its incompetence and uselessness. When we think that the Minister of Education wanted to disbar 19 000 teachers (!), this is unheard of in the history of humanity. This sinister minister nevertheless radiated 4,000 of them! Some argue that following a « up there » intervention, teachers who have been struck off are being reinstated. The bankruptcy of the Algerian government is total and when civilians fail in the management of their sectors, the security services must intervene to manage a situation that is not their responsibility. These incompetent and corrupt politicians, stashed in their gilded residence, put gendarmes and policemen, who are children of the people, in front of citizens who demonstrate for their rights.

We can not stop worrying about the way this government deals with the various crises – crises that are not unexpected because of the consequences of the fall in the price of oil in a country dependent of hydrocarbons at 98%. This regime of broken arms became famous for its incompetence, its mismanagement and, especially, for its corruption which made that thousand millions of dollars flew off everywhere in the world in overbillings and numerous misappropriations. The fall in the price of oil announced a difficult future, but Algeria is in the hands of a government without a vision for the future, which operates from day to day and is made up of incompetent people at the head of which reigns the absolute emptiness. Is it necessary to remember once again that the President is ill, that he is unfit to perform his duties and that Article 102 of the Constitution should be applied to him for failure to run the country? And they dare to speak of a 5th term to reproduce the same failures! Do I still have to repeat that the president does not hold council of ministers, he does not represent Algeria in any international meeting, he does not make any speech to the nation, and all this since 2012? For the past six years, the Algerian people is boarded in a boat without rudder which is tossed to the liking of currents and waves, at the risk of running aground on reefs. This situation would be unimaginable in another country, but in Algeria it is allowed. So, the problem of Algeria is primarily political with the vacancy of power, and the economic aspect has complicating the situation. And this illegitimate power does not admit alternation. The different elections are made with less than 15% of voters, which makes all assemblies illegitimate de facto. This returns us to the disinterest of the political fact of Algerians who resist by applying a citizen boycott on all that comes from this illegitimate regime. In this particular context, the calls from each other are welcome to put pressure on this power. Ideally, political opponents should join the people in its struggles and propose serious and realistic initiatives to get out of this rut, because the stalemate and the status quo in which the country is stagnating are certainly not in favor of Algeria. The fundamental problem that Algeria is experiencing being the illegitimacy of the regime in place, the solution can in no case be technical but POLITICAL.

The labor movements we have seen in action every day for several months are very important. The junction between the political parties of the opposition, or at least those who claim to be, and these trade union movements would be necessary to solve the problems once and for all, although every trade unionist has a reluctance towards politics, which is quite natural. It is therefore essential that the still healthy political forces of the nation give political content to these social demands, and there, change could take place, everyone would play his role and find his place. Because, today, no one is in his place, starting with the government and the occult forces that run Algeria at the level of the presidency and which are extra constitutional composed of the younger brother of the president, Saïd Bouteflika, and his entourage. Everyone speaks in the name of a president who does not exist and who is seen only occasionally during his rare lunar appearances. No dialogue could be made between this government and the protesters, on the contrary, one sought to break these strike movements by attacking them in various ways, using a corrupt press against teachers, against doctors, against retirees of Algerian army who fought terrorism for years. With regard to these latter, I once again request that Amar Hassini, aka Amar « El-Biri », the coordinator of the protest movement of the radiated and retirees of the ANP (Algerian National Popular Army), be released together with his colleague. I continue to say that this power leads Algeria to a catastrophe, particularly at the level of the ILO (International Labor Organization) with which conventions have been signed and which are not respected by the Algerian government. This one will have to appear before the ILO Governing Body at the end of March, and the option that the ILO will ask for international arbitration over the dismissed Algerian workers should not be ruled out, especially those of the SONELGAZ union, the SNALTEG, the postal workers and all the others. I have been personally contacted by a group of SONARIC workers from the Ferdjioua unit who have been falsely dismissed and who have obtained justice to reinstate their position, what is stubbornly refused by the employer who mocks of the court decision. I submitted the grievances of these workers by sending a letter to the Algerian authorities at all levels, which did nothing. I then contacted the ILO secretariat department in Geneva and sent them the complete file of these workers. I have always been close to the struggles of workers (dockworkers, textile workers, construction workers, etc.) and unions such as CNAPESTE, CLA (Council of Algerian high schools), etc., and I remember the days and nights I spent with teachers and comrades Redouane Osmane or Meziane Meriane during the teachers’ previous struggles. I have often had the opportunity to intervene through my pen to defend the workers’ cause in various cases, because I am a militant citizen-journalist: the cement business, the theft of sand, etc. and I always had a return. This affair of SONARIC workers from the Ferdjioua unit once again reveals that we are today faced with a hesitant power that is unable to make decisions, giving the impression that this country is not governed. I saw in this last experience a kind of indifference coupled with irresponsibility and a flight ahead at a time when the Algerian street is demanding a qualitative change and shows a great vitality. I am really happy to see young people, boys and girls, militating and demanding their rights. It’s warm to the heart and opens up prospects for the future. I’m sure our comrades who died in the union struggle are proud of this generation that has taken over from despite all odds. By cons, they can feel only contempt for Sidi Saïd – who I mentioned in a previous article on the trade unionism – who danced while workers were being laid off. The UGTA (General Union of Algerian Workers) of Sidi Said is guilty among others of having monetized a ferocious privatization in the 1990s when more than 600 companies were sold to Mafiosi who became the oligarchs of today. More than 700 000 workers were victims of it by seeing themselves laying off overnight. Nobody can be proud of those pushy billionaires who have squatted all the spaces: political, economic, trade union, sports, etc. No sector escaped predation. Everything was polluted.

I continue to say that the real danger for Algeria is the current regime that does not solve the problems of the Algerian citizen, but which is the source. He has not been able to arbitrate or negotiate in the case of these social demands, quite the contrary, he has clubbed, threatened, defamed, and dismissed. It could not either brandish as usual the striped disk of the « foreign hand » because it does not work, they are Algerian teachers, Algerian doctors, Algerian retired army. None of the protesters come from Mars. This power is an illegitimate regime and, therefore, everything that comes from it is illegitimate. If some of us are fighting for the interests of our country, even through foreign media, this regime and those who compose it and who diverted money especially toward France, betraying Algeria and the oath of the martyrs, put the country in difficulty by their incompetence by standing up Algeria against organizations like the ILO. It is certain that Algeria will again be reprimanded following complaints from various trade union organizations that are in their rights, such as SNATEG or CGATA. This regime of incompetents falls out us with almost all the planetary organizations. When one hears the Minister of Labor, one can only wonder where this guy comes from. They bring us completely inept individuals. It is amazing how much this system reproduces only what is mediocre. And of course, despite their crass nullity and the damage they cause, like this Prime Minister, this Minister of Education, this Minister of Health, the Minister of Labor, etc., none have enough dignity to resign. But beware of the collapse of Algeria; I will never say it enough! There is a red line not to be crossed! Since these people have misappropriated money, they will leave and follow the capital they have placed abroad when the country collapses, God forbid. But we, the patriots, have only one homeland, she is in our hearts and we do not need a piece of paper to be Algerians. We are Algerians in every fiber of our being and in every drop of our blood. It’s the difference between them and us. And I say again that I’m proud of these great union movements, I know that change will come from there and not from the old wrecks which cling to power and that live on plundering and on corruption. Yes, we have economic problems, but the crisis is above all political. And besides, we have a serious generational problem. It is time that the old debris of regime passes the baton, it is a historical necessity. If you want to bury yourself with your pharaoh, do it, but do not bury the country with you. Go your way, leave Algeria to the Algerians, let them decide their own fate. You have the same profile as the settlers of yesteryear, and no one wants you. The people who are fighting today are a hymn to resistance and the breath of change will come from the movement of autonomous unions and the effervescence that Algeria is experiencing at the moment. This new generation saves the country’s honor by showing that it knows how to manage itself and that it is capable of reflecting on its own. It does not need a guide, a providential man or a messiah. These young people restore hope to Algeria by walking proudly in the direction of history, and from the bowels of this trade union movement will come the change that will put an end to the yoke of those who have assumed the role of the new settlers.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Published in American Herald Tribune, March 10, 2018:

Publié dans In English

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