Moroccan unions call for general strike on Feb. 24

Labour unions protest pension reforms, subsidies
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 02/11/2016

RABAT (Reuters) — Morocco's four largest labour unions have called for a 24-hour general strike by both public- and private-sector workers on Feb. 24 to protest government reforms of pensions and subsidies, the unions said in a statement on Wednesday.

More than its neighbours in North Africa, Morocco has been praised by international lenders for progress in controlling the high public spending. It has ended fuel subsidies and frozen public-sector hiring.

Last month, the government moved into another sensitive area, when it adopted a bill last month outlining planned pension reforms. Unions have vowed to block the reforms, saying they would damage workers' rights.

The walkouts are the second general strike against the Islamist-led government that the four biggest unions intend to organize.

"The government has been taking decisions on its own without any dialogue and repressing peaceful protests," a statement from the Moroccan Labour Union (UMT), Democratic Labour Confederation (CDT), Democratic Federation of Labour (FDT) and General Union of Moroccan Workers (UGTM) said.

"The government says these are reforms, but we call it corruption," said Miloudi Moukharik, the leader of the biggest union, UMT.

General strikes in Morocco used to be very violent, although the most recent organized by the country's unions, in 2014, was a limited success.

However, the new call comes at a sensitive time. Government decisions are starting to create social tensions, triggering protests, sit-ins and strikes that challenge the government's resolve.

The government may face even more pressure in 2016. Weak economic growth is expected with a drought looming, after an exceptional cereal harvest in 2015.

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