Morocco’s call centre workers get organised


On 6 April 2014, thousands of people came out onto the streets, called out by the three main trade union centres of Morocco to protest in favour of collective bargaining rights and renewed social dialogue with the government.

The Moroccan workers’ demands are not new. An April 2011 agreement was supposed to ensure increases in pay and pensions as well as reforms to improve the pension system, freedom of association and the right to strike.

Claims by the government that it has honoured these commitments are contested by the unions, which point to the fact that Morocco has still not ratified ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association.

The relations between workers and employers in the country’s call centres have become emblematic of the social tensions across Morocco, especially over recent years, since it has been attracting a growing number of service companies from Europe and the United States.

Over 70,000 jobs are estimated to have been created in call centres in the last ten years. In many cases, however, the working conditions are harsh and the jobs precarious.

Most call centre employees, often young and female, are not provided with proper social protection and some work for over 14 hours a day.

Ayoub Saoud, general secretary of the trade union representing workers at B2S Morocco, explains that many workers are also dismissed before they can reach the two years’ service mark, which gives them the right to a pay rise.

Even the management is said to be conscious of the situation. “Some managers have already admitted to me that the working conditions are harsh and need to be improved,” said Mohammed El Ouafi, a member of the general secretariat at the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT).


Unconstitutional practices

Employees hoping to improve their working conditions have grouped together and union organising campaigns have been launched.

Some attempts to organise have, however, met with tough opposition from the management, especially at Total Call.

On 12 February 2014, five Total Call employees submitted a file to constitute a trade union, fully respecting the legal requirements in place.

They were summoned by the management the very same day, and made to understand that “the trade union is a foreign body”, recounts Mohamed El Ouafi.

The five employees were dismissed the following day.

For Mohamed El Ouafi, it came as no surprise: “In 2012, the company had already dismissed over 34 employees for trying to set up a union office on the company’s premises. Another 120 employees who supported their colleagues then also found themselves out on the street.

According to the trade union organisations interviewed by Equal Times, Total Call is particularly opposed to any kind of dialogue and has reportedly even refused to take part in a mediation procedure organised by the Casablanca prefecture. Such practices are commonplace in Morocco, despite being in breach of Article 8 of the Constitution.

In 2013 alone, the UMT National Call Centre Organising Commission listed three cases in which employees were dismissed for their trade union activities.

In addition, as Ayoub Saoud explains, managers often use the threat of relocation.

“It is quite common to hear employers threatening to leave the country for low-cost destinations and thus cut jobs if unions are formed.”

It is hoped that an international campaign focusing on the Total Call case, jointly conducted by the UMT, LabourStart and UNI Global Union, will raise public awareness about the trade union rights violations in Morocco’s call centres.