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The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Constitutional provisions imply the right to organize and bargain collectively; however, with the passage of the new Code these rights are now statutorily mandated. Trade union federations competed among themselves to organize workers. Any group of eight workers may organize a union and a worker may change union affiliation easily. A work site may contain several independent locals or locals affiliated with more than one labor federation. However, only unions able to show that they have as members at least 35 percent of the workforce must be recognized as negotiating partners.
Collective bargaining has been a longstanding tradition in some parts of the economy, such as the industrial sector, and is becoming more prevalent in the service sector, including banking, health and the civil service. The wages and conditions of employment of unionized workers generally were set in discussions between employer and worker representatives. However, employers set wages for the vast majority of workers unilaterally. Labor disputes have arisen in some cases as the result of employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages.
Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees the right to strike, but also prescribes that the conditions and ways of exercising such a right will be defined by subsequent law which, in fact, requires compulsory arbitration of disputes. Work stoppages normally were intended to advertise grievances and lasted 24 to 72 hours or less. Most strikes during the year were of short duration, usually 24 to 48 hours, involving the teachers' unions, Royal Air Maroc employees, bank officers, longshoremen, bus drivers, cabbies, and health care professionals. There was only one extended strike, carried out by independent truck drivers, lasting from June 26 to July 8. These self-employed operators of small (8-ton) trucks objected to government efforts to register and tax them. They blockaded numerous thoroughfares and threatened other truck drivers with physical violence if they failed to heed the strike.
The new Code also prescribes the government's authority, under Section 288 of the Penal Code, to intervene in strikes. Should strikers conduct a sit-in, damage property, and/or prevent non-striking employees from getting to their jobs, employers may seek criminal prosecution of workers under the Penal Code. The Government has the authority to break up demonstrations in public areas that do not have government authorization, and to prevent the unauthorized occupancy of private space such as a factory.
Employers wishing to dismiss workers are required by law to notify the provincial governor through the labor inspector's office. In cases in which the employer plans to replace dismissed workers, a government labor inspector provides replacements and mediates the cases of workers who protest their dismissal. Any worker who is dismissed for committing a serious infraction of work rules is entitled by law to a court hearing. This judicial hearing is a strictly enforced fundamental right.
According to figures released by the Labor Department, in the first half of the year, inspectors helped resolve labor disputes affecting 350 businesses and, by so doing, precluded 418 potential strikes. Labor Department officials maintain that they seek to protect workers' jobs while encouraging workers to stay on the job.
Rather than pursue a confrontational approach with jobseekers and the unions, the Government generally opted to promote social dialogue as the means to resolve industrial conflicts. End of the year government figures showed 149 strikes involving 13,911 employees with the number of workdays lost at 70,287. Ministry negotiators helped avert 721 potential strikes
In general, the Government ensured the observance of labor laws in larger companies and in the public sector. In the informal economy, such as in the family workshops that dominated the handicrafts sector, employers routinely ignored labor laws and regulations, and government inspectors lacked the resources to monitor violations effectively.
Unions resorted increasingly to litigation to resolve labor disputes. The Ministry of Labor's 496 inspectors served as investigators and conciliators in labor disputes. According to the Ministry of Labor, its inspectors were able to help resolve some 713 potential strikes affecting 573 businesses during the first nine months of the year. It claimed that its staff, over the same period, helped to reinstate 3,039 employees.
Unresolved issues in the social dialogue remained concerning reforms to pension and retirement systems, regulating the right to strike, providing ample notice to management before a walkout, easing rules on dismissing or laying-off workers, and reducing management use of temporary workers to circumvent provisions of Code that apply only to permanent employees.
In the Tangier Free Trade Zone an export processing zone, the country's labor laws and practices fully apply to the 10,000 employees. The proportion of unionized workers in the export zone was comparable to the rest of the economy, approximately 6 percent.
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