A lock-out is preventing recently unionized teachers and administrative staff from returning to work at the Notre Dame de la Paix, a private elementary school in Rabat, Morocco.

On Monday, the teachers and support workers—many of whom have worked at the school for decades—were met with security staff, who prevented the teachers from returning to the classroom and to their jobs of educating children.

“These actions have been taken against us for the simple reason that we formed a union,” said Abdelillah Jarbi, general secretary of the Moroccan Catholic Schools union, which is affiliated with the Moroccan Labor Union (UMT-ECAM).

Last year, when uprisings swept across the Arab world, workers at the school established a union for the first time in more than 60 years of operation. UMT-ECAM represents workers at three schools in the Rabat, the Moroccan capital.

The political opening encouraging workers to stand up for their rights was short-lived. School authorities retaliated by illegally firing Jabri and 20 other teachers for their union activities. According to the locked-out workers, the school wants them to sign short-term contracts containing a no-union clause before they will be allowed back to work—a measure that violates international standards regarding freedom of association.

“We’re not asking for anything unreasonable,” said Jabri. “We simply want to see our rights respected—including our right to form a union and the reinstatement of the sacked workers.”

The UMT is a Solidarity Center partner.

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