Total Call : determined to fight all forms of trade unionism

The company Total Call is a call centre situated in Casablanca, and is a subsidiary of the Iliad Group which manages the “Free” brand. Staffing levels at the Casablanca site exceed 1,400 employees. Right up to this day, the company has always refused to allow the holding of worker delegate elections, as mandated by Morocco’s labour code and which was adopted by the different partners and ratified in Parliament in 2004. There is no union representation, but this is not because the workers don’t wish for it.

Subsequently, as of 2009, the workers initiated their first attempts at becoming organised with the support of the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT). The first attempt failed and the members of the union local were dismissed.

In light of the events that took place in Morocco in 2011, the workers made another attempt that year, and again in 2012, but management’s retaliation was severe – and – after having dismissed the members of the union local, the workers started on a long strike and sit-in in front of the call centre’s offices. Despite both local and international solidarity, management proceeded to dismiss dozens of workers and the union local was dissolved.

Finally, as of 2013, with the creation by the UMT of the National Commission for Call Centre Organising (CNOC), a group of activists established a new union local and took great care to protect the employees by working effectively clandestinely until they obtained their official government certificate attesting to the union local’s legal existence.

On the 13th of February 2014, the day after having received the official government certification, management did not hesitate and proceeded to dismiss 5 members of the union local. Prior to doing so, management had attempted to get them to renounce their union affiliation, by offering material advantages.

Solidly supported by the central UMT union which immediately took the step of writing to the CGEM employers’ federation, to the AMRC association of call centre operators, and the local authorities, the CNOC organised a sit-in in front of the regional headquarters of the Ministry of Labour, as well as in front of the employer to denounce their illegal decision. There was no response, and the leaders of the UMT proceeded to present the problem to the local and national authorities – except these did not act either.

Coincidentally, the date of this dismissal coincided with the organisation of an international conference on call centres in Orlando by UNI-Global Union and the CWA. Our delegate and the CNOC coordinator were able to present the situation at the conference, after which a large wave of international solidarity followed.

Coordinating with the Comrades from the Solidarity Center and UNI-ICTS, LabourStart was solicited to start an international campaign via the “ActNow!” campaign. The latter organisation received the necessary explanations and did not hesitate in supporting the UMT’s activists.

The icing on the cake came, when Comrade Mostapha Berrchid – the general secretary of the Total Call union local – was invited to participate at the “Global Solidarity Conference” in Berlin from the 22nd to the 25th of May 2014, where he was applauded and welcomed as a hero after having made introductory remarks at the opening of the conference to explain the situation and obtain support from the delegates for trade union activism in Moroccan call centres.

In addition to activists, correspondents, and supporters of LabourStart from around the world, dozens of Moroccans have been able to – for the first time ever, participate in an on-line LabourStart campaign. And record numbers were achieved, not only for the participation of Moroccans, but in the level of support for a Moroccan trades’ union cause – with 8,527 signatures.

This marks the occasion of a new and promising activist experience for union causes in Morocco.

As of today, even though the management of Total Call has not backed down, they have however been placed in a compromising situation: hesitating between engaging in a dialogue with the UMT, organising worker delegate elections, recognising the right to freedom of association, or trying to buy time by maintaining the status quo. The “devil’s advocates” continue to exhort the management not to recognise trades’ union rights, or – failing that – to create a “yellow” union, or to organise false delegate elections.

But one thing is certain, and that is that the management of Total Call cannot continue to play dumb, especially after the hard knock they have received as a result of the LabourStart campaign against their repeated violations of trades’ union rights and freedoms.

Today, the lessons of international solidarity are more than ever a symbol of hope for us and for the comrades at Total Call, as well as for all the women and men working at call centres. It is them who have been most supported to see the number of friends they have around the world, as well as the strength of our links to LabourStart, with the Solidarity Center, with UNI-ICTS, as well as with other trades’ union organisations in France, Belgium, Tunisia, the USA and elsewhere.

We are now better supported and more determined than ever to continue with our struggle for freedom and our rights, and we know that we can count on you all.

We would like to thank the comrades: Michael Schwaabe, Eric Lee, Alan Tate, and all the others.

Long live international solidarity.
For the CNOC – UMT
Mohamed El Wafy, coordinator
Mostapha Berrchid – Total Call General Secretary


Justices Rule Certain Workers Can’t Be Forced to Pay Union Fees: Supreme Court Rejects Mandatory Fees for Illinois Home-Based Care Workers



Brent Kendall And
Melanie Trottman
Updated June 30, 2014 3:05 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON-A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that Illinois home-based care workers can’t be forced to pay dues to a union they don’t want to join.

However, the high court avoided the broadest possible ruling in the case, declining a request by the challengers to limit the ability of public-sector unions to collect fees from all nonmembers.

The court, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, said the aides, who provide care to the disabled, weren’t full-fledged public employees even though they are paid for their work by the state. Because of that status, the workers couldn’t be required to pay fees to a public-sector union, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision.

Justice Alito said requiring mandatory union fees violated the First Amendment rights of aides that didn’t want to join or support the union.

If the court sided with Illinois and the union, “we would approve an unprecedented violation of the bedrock principle that, except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support,” Justice Alito wrote.

The court’s majority decided against overruling a past precedent that was favorable to public-sector unions, though Justice Alito said the court’s earlier 1977 ruling allowing such mandatory fees rests on questionable footing.

The ruling split along ideological lines, with conservative justices in the majority and liberal justices in the dissent.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, said Illinois had ” a more than sufficient interest” in managing its workforce and administering home-care programs “to require employees to pay a fair share of a union’s costs of collective bargaining.”

Labor lawyers said that more broadly, unions dodged a bullet but may not be able to in the future. Monday’s ruling “sets the table for more challenges to agency fees down the road. And this fact will not make unions sleep any easier,” said Michael Lotito a labor lawyer at Littler Mendelson.

Illinois had authorized Medicaid-paid home-health workers to unionize and collectively bargain with the state. One group of health aides voted to join the Service Employees International Union. The union can’t force all workers to become members, but the contract it negotiated with the state requires nonmembers to pay a fee to the union to cover their share of costs related to workplace representation.

The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, an antiunion group in Springfield, Va., sued on behalf of eight Medicaid-paid aides, some of whom are covered by the SEIU agreement. Most of the challengers were caring for disabled family members.

The foundation said the Illinois arrangement had forced parents and other relatives taking care of disabled people into union associations they didn’t want. The group said Monday’s ruling would free “thousands of home-care providers from unwanted union control.”

The challengers argued that even though they’re paid by the state Medicaid program, they shouldn’t be classified as state workers because they can be terminated by the individuals who employ them.

Unions argued that because all covered workers benefit from the collective bargaining terms, the mandatory fees prevent nonmembers from free-riding on union members. Unions argued that states should have the right to choose how to manage their workforce and that collective bargaining helps create a stable, well-trained workforce for in-home care rather than caretaking at facilities they contend would be more costly.

“At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care-workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

The Supreme Court decision weakens a tool for organized labor to expand its ranks and could have an impact in several states that have similar arrangements with public-sector unions. Personal assistants in Illinois pay SEIU–Healthcare Illinois and Indiana more than $3.6 million in fees annually, according to court documents.

The Supreme Court has grown more skeptical of organized labor since two George W. Bush appointees arrived in the mid-2000s. The case was seen as a potential test of the more conservative current majority’s approach to collective bargaining issues.

The high court’s ruling declined to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court decision that allowed government entities to require public employees to pay “fair-share” fees to a union that negotiates on their behalf. That ruling did allow public employees to refuse to fund union activities outside collective bargaining, such as political campaigning.

—Jess Bravin contributed to this article.

Write to Brent Kendall at