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Algeria: Negotiations Fail between Government and Unions

Algeria: Negotiations Fail between Government and Unions

Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 - 11:30
Protesters chant slogans in front of a policeman during a demonstration in Algeria. (Reuters)
Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat
The tensions between the Algerian government and the doctors and education unions escalated on Tuesday, prompting the suspension of thousands of schools, hospitals and clinics.

This forced the Ministry of Religious Affairs to call on religious imams to dedicate Friday sermons to talk about "the blessing of stability and the need to maintain it," hinting that the ongoing unrest in the country could lead to chaos.

New unions joined the strike of the education and independent doctors unions, signaling the failure of long rounds of negotiations with the Ministries of Education and Health.

The Ministry of Labor intervened on Tuesday, criticizing the demonstrators for "wanting to impose impossible conditions on the government."

The government said that the financial situation of the country cannot tolerate more pressure on the public treasury.

The protesting unions stated that they are requesting demands that can be met now. Other demands can be postponed if the government makes a written pledge to comply to the requests based on a timetable.

Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit said she would not return to the negotiating table with the National Education Union, the country's most prominent professional union, if the strike is not suspended.

She ordered the dismissal of 19,000 teachers, who were on strike, and replaced them with candidates, who recently passed in the ministry's recruitment competitions.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Mokhtar Hazblawi visited a hospital in Jalafah where he told journalists that hospitals in remote areas "have equipment that may not be available in the capital's hospitals, so the doctors' protest about the lack of equipment is baseless."

Pro-government media launched a campaign against independent trade unions, accusing them of exploiting students and hospital patients to meet their demands.

The tension between the government and unions increased after head of the Supreme Islamic Council, Sheikh Abou Abdullah Gholam Allah, issued a "fatwa", or religious edict, that the strikes were "invalid".

Opposition parties called against using the judiciary as a “weapon,” especially since the constitution protects the right of the people to stage a strike, on condition that it not obstruct vital institutions, such as hospitals.

Secretary General of the Independent Workers' Union of Public Administration Rashid Maalawi commented on the government's use of religion in its struggle with the demonstrators, saying it was "immoral."

Maalawi revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that an International Labor Office delegation is expected to visit Algeria on Monday to meet with the Minister of Labor Mourad Zamali to question him on the restrictions imposed on independent trade unions.

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