Cablegate: Morocco: Labor Monitoring and Trade


DE RUEHCL #0018/01 0361110
P 051110Z FEB 10




E.O 12958: N/A

REF: A. 09 STATE 131995

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Morocco has engaged in
significant labor reform, primarily through a 2004
modernization of its labor code, an effort that
received added impetus as a result of the
negotiation of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade
Agreement. While the current law adheres to core
international labor standards and is a possible
model for the region, in practice the Government of
Morocco's (GOM's) implementation and enforcement of
the labor code is weak. The funding, training and
equipping of labor inspectors is inadequate, and
other factors such as corruption, collusion between
employers and local officials, and a judicial system
in need of reform contribute to the problems. Labor
unions are weak and plagued by lack of internal
democracy and transparency, and in some cases by
subordination to the interests of the ruling
political parties. Morocco also continues to
struggle with a considerable child labor issue; in
particular there is little regulation of the
widespread phenomenon of female child domestics.
The GOM has responded positively to USG urging,
however. Tangible progress has been made with USG
funding for child labor programs and for training on
the new labor code. The USG should more actively
engage the GOM, within the scope of our bilateral
cooperation, on enforcement of the existing labor
code, strengthening of the trade federations and
child labor. This cable provides an overview of the
labor issues in Morocco, labor rights and
recommendations for strategic engagement on labor
issues (Ref A). END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) According to figures provided by the GOM's
statistical agency, the Haut Commissariat au Plan
(HCP), in 2007 approximately 660,000 workers, or six
percent of the workforce, were unionized. There are
more than 25 trade unions though only five, and now
possibly fewer, are considered to be the "most
representative" and hence eligible to participate in
the social dialogue with the Government and
collective bargaining. The GOM passed a long-
stalled reform to its labor code in 2003 as a
result, in part, of its negotiations with the USG
over the bilteral Free Trade Agreement. The new
labor code ncludes provisions guaranteeing core
international labor standards, including the right
to organize, the right to strike and a prohibition
on frced or exploitive labor. At the end of 2009,
te GOM submitted two draft laws aimed at regulating
and controlling labor union organizing and codifing
the right to strike. The GOM argued that pasage of
these laws in ther current form would permit
Morocco to ratify ILO Convention 87 on the right of
assembly, and to abrogate an article in the penal
code that trade unions say has unfairly been used to
hamper their right to strike.

3. (SBU) The GOM's Ministry of Employment and
Professional Training's (MOEPT's) Office of Labor
Inspectors is responsible for enforcing the
regulations in the labor code, mediating between
workers and employers to avert strikes, and
organizing and overseeing the election of labor
representatives. According to the MOEPT there are
421 labor inspectors stationed at 45 offices
throughout the country. In the first nine months of
2009, the inspectors performed 8,938 inspections,
resulting in 441 offenses and 2,303 infractions
totaling 235 million dirham (USD 29 million) in
fines. Trade unions and observers of Morocco's

labor scene agreed that the number of inspectors is
inadequate to enforce the labor code effectively.
Inspectors lack resources, are susceptible to
corruption, and in some cases are fearful of
confronting powerful employers. In one case
recounted to PolOff by the trade unions and the
International Labor Organization (ILO)
representative, a labor inspector in Meknes in 2007
levied a fine against a company. Subsequently the
employees, at the behest of the employer, lodged a
complaint in the courts that the labor inspector had
fabricated the offense. As a result the labor
inspector was tried and sentenced to several years
in prison for his alleged abuse of power. Our
interlocutors frequently cited this example to
illustrate how wealthy employers, local government
officials and the courts collude to prevent the
inspectors from doing their job. An ILO
representative commented that inspectors are
reluctant to put themselves at risk and that many
see their job as largely one of awareness-raising,
an observation borne out by the 266,080 warnings
issued by inspectors in 2009.

4. (SBU) Child labor remains a significant problem
in Morocco despite substantial efforts by the GOM to
address it and the related questions of education
and poverty alleviation. Young boys worked
primarily in construction, car repair, agriculture
(mainly family farms) and other service sectors.
Child labor for girls was most prevalent in the form
of child domestics. Female child domestics or
"petites bonnes" face increased risk of physical and
sexual abuse from their employers. Further, they
typically work very long hours for a nominal salary,
do not attend school, and have high rates of
illiteracy. Both the MOEPT and the Ministry of
Social Development, Family and Solidarity (MOSD)
have forwarded separate draft legislation to the
Secretary General of the Government that would
expand the labor code to protect domestic servants
and substantially increase penalties for employers
who use child domestic workers. (See Ref B for a
comprehensive assessment of Morocco's child labor
problem and the GOM's efforts to address the issue).


5. (SBU) Morocco's trade unions are no longer the
populist political and social force they once were
under King Hassan II. However, they are still
capable of mobilizing workers and challenging the
Government, demonstrated most recently by a three-
day national strike that forced the Government to
withdraw proposed legislation to reform the traffic
laws (Ref C). Many of the trade unions are now
closely affiliated with political parties, hampered
by a lack of internal democracy, and perceived as
corrupt or acquiescent to the interests of the
ruling parties. The Moroccan Labor Union (UMT) is
the largest union and dominates particularly in the
private sector. The UMT has been controlled by
Mahjoub Benseddik, hero of the anti-colonial
struggle, since 1955 and has not held an internal
party congress since April 1995. The Democratic
Confederation of Labor (CDT) is the next largest
union and has the greatest number of government
employees. Observers of the Moroccan labor scene
agree that the CDT and UMT are the only two trade
unions that operate with a degree of independence
from the Government and political parties.

6. (SBU) The third-largest trade union is the
General Union of Moroccan Workers (UGTM), affiliated
with the ruling Istiqlal (Independence) party of
Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi. Hamid Chabat, the
head of the UGTM and Mayor of the City of Fes, also
sits on the executive committee of the Istiqlal

party (Ref D). The UGTM has supported the policies
of the Government, often to the chagrin on its
members, and only in October 2009 participated for
the first time in a public sector strike. The
fourth-largest trade union is the National Labor
Union of Morocco (UNTM), affiliated with the
Islamist-oriented Party of Justice and Development
(PJD). The PJD's exclusion from Morocco's coalition
governments has given it more freedom to represent
the interests of its members. Finally, the
Democratic Federation of Labor (FDT), affiliated
with the Popular Front of Socialist Union party, was
formed when the CDT split from the party in 2002.


7. (SBU) Paragraphs 8-21 provide details and a
description of specific labor rights as requested in
Ref A.

Freedom of Association

8. (SBU) The Moroccan constitution guarantees
freedom of association, including the right to join
a union. Moreover, the Labor Code allows workers to
freely join and withdraw from a trade union and
provides regulations for forming and registering a
union. In practice, however, this right is not
always respected. Trade union leaders told PolOff
that attempts to organize workers, in particular in
under-represented areas such as the export-oriented
intensive agriculture in Agadir, frequently resulted
in the dismissal and harassment of workers engaged
in unionizing activities. In addition, trade unions
cited other incidents of harassment, including the
transfer or demotion of six employees who led the
effort to form an air traffic controllers union in
February of 2008. The unions also cited the high
number of labor representatives elected without a
union affiliation as proof of employers' exercise of
undue influence to prevent effective union

9. (SBU) From May 19 to 29, 2009, the GOM held
elections for labor representatives for the first
time since 2003. The election of labor
representatives, required for all businesses with
ten or more salaried employees every six years, is
significant, since it is the duty of the labor
representative to submit individual complaints about
working conditions to the employer and to refer
unresolved complaints to the labor inspector.
Moreover, the elections designate which trade unions
are the "most representative" and hence eligible to
participate in collective bargaining by enterprise
as well as participate in the social dialogue with
the government to determine labor policy. "Most
representative," for the purpose of collective
bargaining by enterprise, requires a trade union to
have at least 35 percent of the total number of
labor representatives in an enterprise. To
participate in the social dialogue, a union must
have a minimum of 6 percent of the total number of
labor representatives.

10. (SBU) The 2009 election, the first under the
new labor code, included for the first time, the
election of labor representatives from the
agriculture and handicrafts sectors (although
turnout in these areas was low). According to
statistics provided by the Ministry of Employment
and Professional Training (MOEPT), 8,487 of the
13,578 registered businesses, or 62.5 percent,
participated in the elections. Of the 615,550
registered workers, 81 percent, or 498,468,
participated. The overwhelming majority of labor
representative seats, 11,608 out of a total of

18,063, or 64 percent, were won by representatives
without any trade union affiliation, known by the
French acronym as SAS (Sans Appertenance Syndicale).
Trade union leaders argued that the high number of
SAS representatives was due to poorly regulated
elections which allowed employers to either pressure
their workers into electing an SAS representative
sympathetic to the employer or to rig the election
outright and name an SAS representative. The
confederation of private enterprises (CGEM) and the
Government countered that workers are alienated and
distrustful of the highly politicized trade unions,
which lack transparency and internal democracy and
have failed to represent adequately the interests of

11. (SBU) The rest of the labor representatives
were elected as follows:

UMT: 2,481 or 13.74 percent
CDT: 1,393 or 7.71 percent
UGTM: 1,045 or 5.79 percent
UNTM: 683 or 3.79 percent
FDT: 520 or 2.88 percent
Others: 333 or 1.84 percent

The remaining 333 representatives were divided among
15 other trade unions. According to Moroccan law,
failure to meet a six-percent threshold means that,
in theory, the UNTM and the FDT will not be allowed
to participate in the social dialogue with the

12. (SBU) Despite commitments from GOM officials at
the time of the U.S.-Morocco FTA negotiations,
Morocco has still not ratified ILO Convention 87
covering freedom of association and the right to
organize. In November 2009, the MOEPT submitted to
the trade unions two draft laws, the first of which
reforms to the right to strike law (and is covered
in the next section). The second draft law aims to
unify legislation concerning the formation and
management of trade unions. The legislation would
mandate greater transparency and democracy in the
unions by requiring a union to hold an internal
congress every four years. In addition, it would
require unions to open their books to government
inspectors and account for the use of government-
provided subsidies and member dues. The Minister of
Employment Jamal Rhmani argued that passage of this
law would permit Morocco to ratify Convention 87 and
be compliant with its conditions. While the trade
unions have not yet officially responded, we expect
they will vociferously resist its passage.

Collective Bargaining and the Right to Strike

13. (SBU) Unions have the right to bargain
collectively, but in practice, this right is
infrequently used. The GOM held numerous meetings
with trade union representatives throughout 2009
under the rubric of the "social dialogue." However,
talks mainly focused on wage and benefit issues
related to civil servants and an increase in the
minimum wage, rather than labor policy. No
agreement has been reached on these issues, and
civil servants, especially from the Ministries of
Health, Justice, and National Education, went on
strike repeatedly in late 2009. Trade unions told
PolOff that employers are reluctant to engage in
tripartite talks and instead negotiations are
frequently held with the Government representing the
interests of the enterprises.

14. (SBU) Workers have the right to strike but are
required by law to give ten days notice, unless the
issue concerns the non-payment of salaries or
threatens the health or life of workers, in which

case only 24 hours notice is required. Workers who
wish to engage in a strike are required to submit to
mediation by a labor inspector. In practice,
workers frequently went on strike without notifying
the Government in advance. According to the MOEPT,
in the first nine months of 2009, there were 168
strikes resulting in the loss of 242,247 days of
work. The MOEPT also reported that labor inspectors
assisted negotiations that avoided 537 planned
strikes. Observers agree, however, that this number
does not accurately represent the true state of
labor relations and is likely a tally of the
"official strikes" referred to labor inspectors.
Finally, the courts have the power to reinstate
workers who are unfairly dismissed. The MOEPT
reported that in the first nine months of 2009,
5,713 workers were reinstated.

15. (SBU) Trade unions complained that the GOM
continues to use Penal Code Article 288 to prosecute
workers who participate in a strike. Article 288
prescribes a sentence of one month to two years'
imprisonment for any individual using force, threat
or fraudulent activities to cause a coordinated
stoppage of work in order to force a change in wages
or that jeopardizes the free exercise of work.
Unions alleged that the GOM frequently used this law
to prosecute workers, citing the example of strikes
in January 2009 at the SOPROFEL packaging plant in
Biourga, Agadir, where a number of workers were
injured by strikebreakers and then prosecuted and
sentenced under Article 288.

16. (SBU) Minister of Employment and Professional
Training has tabled a draft law on the right to
strike. The new legislation would require that 35
percent of workers, through the labor
representatives, agree to a strike, and give ten
days notice. The bill would require mediation
before a labor commission, rather than by the labor
inspectors, and would include prohibitions on
strikebreaking and sit-ins. Minister Rhmani
announced that the passage of this law would allow
the GOM to abrogate Article 288 and bring the
Government in compliance with its ILO obligations.

Elimination of Forced Labor and Child Labor

17. (SBU) Despite substantial steps to address the
issue, Morocco continues to have a significant
problem with the use of child labor in multiple
sectors. Young girls trafficked from the
countryside to work as domestic servants or "petites
bonnes" are especially vulnerable to physical and
sexual abuse and forced labor. The GOM has proposed
a law that would extend the labor code to include
domestic workers and increase penalties for those
who employ minors. A comprehensive assessment of
the problem of child labor and the GOM's efforts to
address the issue is available in mission reporting
on child labor for TVPR and TDA (Ref B).

Elimination of Employment Discrimination

18. (SBU) Women are the primary victims of wage,
employment and workplace discrimination. Morocco's
most prominent non-governmental organizations for
women's rights reported that women are the frequent
victims of sexual harassment and discrimination in
the workplace. Sexual harassment is a crime under
the penal code, but only when committed by a
superior, and is classified as an abuse of
authority. The law was not adequately enforced by
the Government. Women were generally reluctant to
sue their employers for fear of losing their jobs,
anticipated difficulties in proving their case and
conservative social mores that would harm their


Acceptable Condition of Work

19. (SBU) The national minimum wage for non-
agricultural work is 1,873 Dirham per month (USD
230) based on a 44-hour work week. Agricultural
workers earn 55.12 dirham per day or 1,203 dirham a
month (USD 137) based on a 48-hour work week. The
minimum wage does not provide an adequate standard
of living for a worker and his family. Trade unions
reported that many employers do not respect the
minimum wage, do not pay overtime as required by the
law and do not accurately report workers' earnings
to the national social security system. The MOEPT,
through its labor inspectors, reported that among
the offenses failure to pay the minimum wage was the
number one issue, accounting for 34 percent of all
fines. Failure to pay a worker's social security
obligations accounted for another 20 percent.

20. (SBU) The law specifies a number of health and
safety standards for workers, but in practice these
are rarely enforced. There are less than a dozen
labor inspectors who specialize in health and safety
issues, and their numbers are inadequate to enforce
the standards properly as set by the law. The
MOEPT, in discussions with PolOff, has requested
funding for the training of health and safety
inspectors, which representatives admitted were too
few in number.

Strategic Recommendations

21. (SBU) The Mission recommends a sustained and
focused engagement with GOM on priority labor
issues, specifically targeting areas where the GOM
is able to make tangible improvements, such as in
fighting child labor, training and resources for the
labor inspectors, and more robust enforcement of the
existing labor code. Washington agencies, including
the Office of the United States Trade Representative
(USTR), should continue to emphasize the importance
of enforcing current labor regulations in their
bilateral discussions with the GOM. The
consultation and assistance provisions on labor and
environment of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement
provide a vehicle both for highlighting problems
with compliance, and for helping with solutions. It
might be possible to augment our technical
assistance, provided under the FTA, through MEPI or
other funding, to emphasize the importance of the
labor and environmental chapters. The USG should,
for example, stress to the GOM the need to assure
adequate enforcement of minimum core labor standards
in the export-oriented value-added agriculture
sector, where Moroccan and U.S. labor groups have
recently noted deficiencies. Past and current DOL
programs have been well received and produced
measurable results. In particular, the Department
of Labor's program "Strengthening Industrial
Relations" to achieve higher levels of compliance
with the new labor code through the training of
labor inspectors and union representatives,
implemented by the ILO, was a positive first step to
increase enforcement. The Mission supports the ILO
follow-on proposal to continue the training program
-- in our view, a much-needed next step. Any
follow-on proposal should have clearly defined
indicators to measure the progress of the GOM's
enforcement of the labor code.

22. (SBU) Labor Engagement: The GOM's efforts to
pass legislation requiring the trade unions to
become more transparent and democratic are likely to
meet with stiff resistance. The problem of union
independence is intricately tied to weaknesses of

capacity in the political parties, which remain
largely powerless to initiate and implement reform
independent of the Palace. The AFL-CIO's Solidarity
Center reported that its training and cooperation
with Moroccan trade unions is limited to work with
CDT. According to the Solidarity Center
representative, the UMT was eager to receive funding
but declined training and cooperation programs,
arguing that the UMT had its own internal trainers.
The representative opined that the real reason for
their refusal to enter into a partnership was the
UMT's reluctance to lift the veil on its internal
workings. Ultimately, stronger unions are the key
to bringing pressure to bear on the GOM to
adequately enforce existing labor legislation. U.S.
engagement with the trade unions needs to be open to
all the unions and would be best achieved through a
program such as "Strengthening Industrial

23. (SBU) Child Labor: This is an area that has
seen real progress but still remains a significant
problem. U.S. support for more programming is very
much needed. If the GOM is successful in passing
new legislation to restrict and penalize the use of
female child domestics, the U.S. should look for
ways to support the initiative with program funding.

Ongoing Labor Programs

24. (U) The U.S. Department of Labor's program
"Combating Child Labor through Education (Dima
Adros)" is scheduled to last from 2007 until 2010 at
a cost of USD 3 million. The program aims to
prevent exploitive child labor in rural areas
through school retention. The program has been
highly successful and a model for capacity building
of local NGOs and an effective means of preventing
child labor.

Labor Contacts

25. (U) Post Labor Reporting Officer is Matthew
Lehrfeld, e-mail:, telephone:
+212522264550 ext.4151, fax number: +212522208096.
The Senior Foreign Commercial Service Officer is
Jane Kitson, e-mail:,
telephone: +212522264550 ext.4129, fax:
+212522220259, the Economic Counselor is Michael
DeTar, e-mail:, telephone:
+212537668132, fax: +212537765661.

26. (U) The principal interlocutor for labor issues
at the MOEPT is Abdelaziz Addoum, Director of Labor,
e-mail:, telephone:
+212537281861, fax: +212537281858.

27. (U) The MOEPT provides office space and hosts a
local officer from International Labor
Organization's International Program for the
Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) to oversee and
coordinate programs to reduce child, forced and
exploitive labor. Ms. Malak Ben Chekroun is the
National Program Administrator for ILO-IPEC, e-mail:, telephone: +212537291881, fax:

28. (U) The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center maintains an
office in Rabat and is active in providing training
to unions, principally the CDT. The regional
officer based in Algiers is Loraine Clewer, e-mail:, telephone:
+213770650395, fax: +212537681437. There is a local
program officer, Driss Choukri, e-mail:, telephone:
+212537681436, fax: +212537681437.

29. (U) UNICEF is active in promoting studies and
programs aimed at child protection, in particular
child labor. Ms. Malika Elatifi, Specialist in
Child Protection, e-mail:,
telephone: 212537759741, fax: 212537759760.

30. (U) Embassy Rabat cleared this message.


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