Report n° 10
Author: M. Dahak (teacher trade unionist and human rights activist) – Date : December 12th, 2020
1/ What have the consequences of the health crisis for the population been – especially for the working class? What has the covid impact been on employment, how many jobs have been lost?
The pandemic has had catastrophic consequences on the Moroccan population, be it political, economic, social or cultural.
Politically, the state has taken advantage of the pandemic to aggravate its repressive policies, repressive practices by the authorities, violence and arbitrary arrests, budget cuts even in the health budget itself, and acts of corruption in the markets and in the aid to the health sector.
Economically, almost all the vital economic sectors have been frozen. The rate of development has gone down to below 0 %; there has been an increase of the foreign debt, with the state resorting to foreign debt seven times in the course of just two months, exports have diminished, which has increased the trade deficit, and depleted foreign currency reserves, which has left the State unable cover its imports..
Socially, increased poverty rate, the number of poor people has risen to 24 million citizens, among whom those belonging to the middle classes. Public services have been frozen, education, healthcare, etc., except for those services directly related to the pandemic.
While the consequences of the pandemic for the working class, is that many workers have lost their jobs in the construction industry and the services, employers have taken advantage of the pandemic to lay off workers and to demand more flexibility and wage cuts, and a reduction of the employers’ contributions to the social fund, at the same time, the state had provided 140 billion Dirhams [15.58 billion US dollars] to the employers under the pretext of economic recovery, while entrepreneurs chose profit at the expense of workers’ lives, which has not allowed the lock-down to achieve its results, since the pandemic significantly developed in industrial units and in the homes of the families of the workers, causing the death of hundreds of workers due to the ineffectiveness of the public healthcare services in this country The pandemic has not spared the so-called informal sector workers, where there are 2.4 million men and women workers.
2/ What figures are available concerning the number of deaths of workers in general and particularly of « frontline » workers, including doctors and other hospital staff?
The number of victims among workers was more than 1,000 in the health sector (doctors, nurses, technicians and other professionals), the school and higher education sector in which several teachers lost their lives, then the sector of journalism, artists, pupils and students. Youth has suffered serious consequences of the pandemic.
3/ What measures have been taken or not taken by the government to deal with the pandemic? Have employers and governments imposed wage cuts?
The government has made no serious and competent effort to increase the efficiency of the health structures of this country. The pandemic has shown the failure of care facilities to respond, the lack of healthcare equipment and centres. The health budget has dropped from 7.2% at the end of the 1970s to 5.4% today, which is far below the requirements of the WHO [World Health Organisation] which requires 12% of the State budget, and also far from States that can compare with Morocco, such as Algeria or Tunisia.
4/ What are the new attacks on workers’ rights and democracy launched by bosses and governments taking advantage of the pandemic during this year?
The government and employers have unleashed an all-out attack against economic, social and democratic rights. The government has cancelled all the job creations that were programmed in the 2020 budget law, except those in the health and safety sector, approved a freeze on all promotions of civil servants, and budget cuts in several sectors, including education, cancelled social dialogue and has frozen the agreement signed with the unions before the pandemic. Employers have taken advantage of the crisis to lay off workers and to refuse to comply with the payment of social security contributions; they have reduced wages and demanded greater flexibility, as well as a revision of the labour code and tax exemptions. As regards democratic rights, the government has criminalised the right to strike, and has passed several laws and bills to suspend demonstrations and rallies. In this way the government has hi-jacked the entire public and private space.
5/ The number of workers in the informal sector has been growing for years. The fight against precarious work should lead the labour movement to reflect on the organisation of these workers. Informal sector workers have paid a very high price for the health crisis. What has their situation been since March 2020? What reactions has this triggered?
The pandemic has worsened the situation of informal sector workers, whose number – according to the high authority for planification published in 2018 – is 2. 4 million employees. The majority of them and their families have received no aid or compensation from the covid-19 fund, to which civil servants had contributed through their compulsory monthly payments and which has led to an increased poverty rate – which now reaches 24 million Moroccans; several small and medium sized businesses have gone bankrupt, while the corrupters have lined their pockets with public money.
Informal sector workers have tried to resist this situation, and to organise, but they have been prevented by the destructive revision of democratic rights and increased repression. We can also record an attack on journalists and social network activists, and penalties that stifle democratic freedoms and social movements.
6/ Working women were also particularly affected. They are the first to lose their jobs, the last to return to the workplaces when they reopen their doors. They are in charge of looking after children deprived of school. Domestic violence increases with social isolation. How does it manifest itself? What mobilisations have taken place to assert the rights of working women?
Considering the situation of working women: the majority of the victims of the pandemic have been women, and especially working women, who suffer double oppression – that of the bourgeois class through abusive lay-offs, and through the obligation to work in units without any protection and with poverty-level wages, as was the case in Lalla Mimouna (the Kenitra region), in Souss-Massa, and in the industrial zones in Casablanca, Tangier and Fez. They also suffer domestic and family violence, and family break-ups in difficult situations.
7/ With the new technologies, capitalists are dismantling labour relations, restructuring and laying off workers. What are the effects of this and what are the threats for labour relationships in the coming period?
Bosses and capitalists have found in the pandemic a suitable opportunity to get rid of workers, through the use of technology, and also to stop paying their contributions to social funds and their taxes, and to demand loans guaranteed by the State treasury.
8/ What has been the position of workers’ organisations and their management during this period? What were the demands? What was their attitude towards the plans of the bosses and governments?
With the exception of a few combative organisations, the other unions have chosen social peace as usual, which has led to increased and fierce repression against these combative organisations. The State had excluded the unions from the structures that were created to face the health crisis, such as the covid 19 fund, and it has passively tolerated the greed of the bosses and repression. In spite of everything, the social movement and the workers have resisted the situation despite repression and the employers’ vicious attacks.