Seventeen workers who were suspended from their jobs in November 2013 at a cement plant in Oggaz, Algeria, have started a hunger strike to campaign for their rights.
In late 2013, the French Lafarge cement group took over the cement factory in Oggaz, in Western Algeria, and the company immediately set about restructuring and downsizing the operation. Workers attempted to resolve the matter through collective negotiation but were not successful. Then, despite record productivity, when the company unilaterally decided to reduce the bonus payments, the workers designated six workers to represent their grievances to management and staged a protest action. These six workers were immediately suspended. A collective work stoppage ensued, and company management retaliated by suspending an additional 11 workers.
The provisions of the cement workers collective agreement covering the application of the disciplinary process for suspended workers have been ignored. Despite repeated assurances, public authorities have so far refused to engage and resolve the matter.
The Lafarge cement workers reached out to the autonomous union SNAPAP for support, and their case has been documented by the Algerian press. On March 9, 2014, the 17 suspended workers started a hunger strike to bring attention to their illegal suspension and the gross violation of their human rights. “We are calling on the solidarity of workers everywhere and especially the global union federations IndustriALL and Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) to denounce both the silence and the indifference of the Algerian authorities in this matter” said Salim Mechri, a member of SNAPAP’s Executive Bureau.