FREE SAID www.freesaid.org
On June 16 th , Said Elhairech, general secretary of the ITF-affiliated Union des Syndicats UMT des Transports and Chair of the ITF Arab World Committee, was arrested in Casablanca. Today Said is still held in Prison of Sale, in Morocco’s capital, Rabat. The main accusation against Said is that his actions amounted to sabotage/endangering national security. Said Elhairech is innocent. Said’s case is really about trade union rights in Morocco.
Background In recent years, the Port of Tangiers has seen significant investment. New terminal developments at the Port have seen the entry of two Global Network Terminal Operators, APM Terminals and Eurogate into the Moroccan ports industry. This is changing the shape of Morocco’s ports industry and the wider industry in this part of the Mediterranean Sea. Union membership amongst dockworkers is high and there has been strong union organisation in Morocco’s other ports for many years. In late 2010, the UMT under Said Elhairech’s leadership began union organising drives at the new terminals in Tangiers operated by APM Terminals and Eurogate to enable workers to exercise their rights to join trade unions and to have the right to collectively bargain: rights enshrined in Morocco’s Labour Code. These campaigns have been successful. In November 2011 a collective bargaining agreement was signed between the UMT and Eurogate Tangiers. In May 2012, a collective bargaining agreement was signed between UMT and AMPT Tangiers. The UMT union members have succeeded, despite strong resistance from the Global Terminal Operators who are new players in Morocco’s ports industry. In May 2012, the situation for TSP workers at Eurogate Tangier took a serious turn for the worse. They were not paid their wages for the whole month of May. The UMT stepped in to support the workers in resolving this serious breach of their employment contract. A strongly worded solidarity letter was issued by the National Union of Port Workers, UMT on June 11th, 2012. In March 2012, other Moroccan maritime workers were facing a different but equally serious set of difficulties. Moroccan seafarers were left stranded in different ports across the Mediterranean Sea when Comanav Ferry and Comarit SA ceased operations. Over 360 seafarers faced increasing shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and pay in the ports of Algeciras, Spain, and Sete, France, following a drastic reduction of operations by Morocco’s Comanav/Comanrit Ferry companies that have led to the laying up of 11 ships in Spanish, French and Moroccan ports.
The situation for these seafarers deteriorated rapidly. On board, with depleting fuel, food and water supplies, the welfare and safety of these Moroccan seafarers and faced with no immediate resolution to their predicament, the ITF issued a call to its Seafarers’ affiliates to support seafarers of the COMANAV FERRY and COMARIT SA vessels. The ITF and its Moroccan affiliated union UMT appealed for the Moroccan diplomatic missions to intervene to ensure that the companies’ obligations to pay all its crew were honoured.
What has been done to free Said so far? 21 st June 2012: ITF’s General Secretary David Cockroft sent a letter to the Moroccan Embassy in London, about the arrest and also visited the Embassy to meet with country’s deputy head of mission, Othmane Bahnini. 22 nd June 2012: ITF’s President Paddy Crumlin visited the Moroccan Embassy in Canberra Australia. 28 th June 2012: The French, Spanish, German, Italian, Great Britain and Australian affiliates sent letters to the Moroccan authorities for the immediate release of Said. 16 th July 2012: A lawyer was appointed by the ITF to assist Said. The lawyer has made a submission for provisional release of Said stating that the case against him has no grounds. 26 th July 2012: Section secretary, Frank Leys, and ITF executive board member Mukthar Hili visited Morocco attempting to visit Said in jail. 23 rd August 2012: Arab delegation ready to go to visit Said in jail, but no permission was given. 28 th August 2012: A court hearing regarding a bail request was held in Rabat: bail was refused. 9th September 2012: A court hearing regarding a second bail request was held: second bail request refused. What can you do? You can sent a protest letter to the Minister of Justice by clicking on the below linkhttp://www.itfglobal.org/solidarity/Said-Elhairech.cfm/letter/95/ M ore inform ation: Said assisted in defending the rights of seafarers following the bankruptcy of the Comarit-Comanav ferry company, and Said was also closely involved in the securing of a collective agreement in November for Dockers in the Eurogate terminal in Tangiers (see links below for more on these cases). Eurogate: http://www.itfglobal.org/solidarity/eurogate.cfm Comarit-Comanav: http://www.itfglobal.org/solidarity/solidarity-3533.cfm