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