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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Reprise des grèves en Algérie

by Hassane Zerrouky

Strikes Break Out Again in Algeria

Translated Tuesday 23 February 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The government is confronted with growing labor discontent. Teachers, public health doctors and metalworkers are demanding wage hikes.

Things are again seething on the Algerian labor front. The secondary and technical teachers unions have opted for a one-week renewable general strike beginning on February 24. They accuse the authorities of not having kept their promises. Last November, following a three-week strike, the government promised to satisfy their three demands: a retroactive wage hike, a retroactive increase in indemnities pegged to the new wage scales, and the cancellation of the transfer of the management of social works to the teachers union that is affiliated with the UGTA (the Algerian trade union confederation), that teachers union having distinguished itself in its efforts to bust the teachers strike.

The teachers unions are accusing the government, which has tried to soothe them regarding the satisfaction of their demands, of hesitating and playing for time. Indeed, to understand the situation it is necessary to know that the teachers unions’ victory was not at all to the taste of the International Monetary Fund, which at the time had recommended that Algeria adopt greater rigor in its expenses, putting the total cost of the wage hike for more than 500,000 teachers at over a billion dollars.

The metallurgical and mechanical workers trade unions are not lagging behind the teachers unions. They have withdrawn from the contract negotiations for the industry. Their delegates have decided to organize a protest sit-in in front of the seat of the UGTA. They describe their sit-in as “an ultimatum before going on general strike” if the companies do not meet their demands, including a 35% wage hike and the assignment by the government of public works contracts to public sector companies on a priority basis. Here again, following the strikes that paralyzed the Algiers industrial zone, the authorities had made promises, including a freeze on the bill changing the legal retirement age.

In addition, 30,000 doctors, including 8,500 public health specialists, are continuing a strike begun on December 24, 2009, to demand a wage hike. At the beginning of his career, a doctor earns 50,000 dinars a month ($688, £447) and barely 100,000 dinars ($1376, £894) after twenty years service.

So it is not at all amazing, some strikers explain, that thousands of doctors leave Algeria every year. More than 100,000 work in the Paris region. And this, in a worsening labor and social context, in which inflation hit 5.7% in late 2009 and will probably go higher in 2010.

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