Friday, March 1, 2013

Jailed Moroccan Transport Union Official Nominated for Award

Two Workers Representatives still in Prison as Unions Protest
Shipping News Feature

MOROCCO – WORLDWIDE – The international transport unions have stepped up the pressure on the Moroccan authorities following the conviction and imprisonment of Said Elhairech, the general secretary of the Moroccan Ports Union, who was unexpectedly given a one year jail sentence last week. The judiciary produced a shock verdict after charges of endangering national security were dropped when they found Elhairech and his colleague, Mohamed Chamchati, the general secretary of the Moroccan merchant seafarers’ union, guilty last week of comparably minor offences.

Now the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has proposed the embattled Moroccan trade unionist for the Febe Elizabeth Velasquez prize, an international award that recognises those who take personal risks to defend trade union rights in their countries. In the meantime both men, Chamchati received a two and a half year sentence, are appealing against the judgements. The Febe Elizabeth Velasquez award is organised every two years by Dutch trade union the FNV and is named after the El Salvadorean union leader who was murdered with others in a bomb attack in October 1989. In proposing Said for it the ITF, which has set up a website detailing the matter, stated:

“Said Elhairech has been an active and dedicated trade unionist for the whole of his working life. He has dedicated his time and effort to the advancement of trade union rights in Morocco where workers can still face oppression and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to organise. Said put his freedom on the line in order to protect and promote the rights of others.

“Despite his ordeal, Said’s commitment and dedication to the trade union cause has not waned. Since his release from jail in October 2012 Said has attended numerous union meetings. His story, his experience, his spirit and his dedication are helping to inspire activists and trade union leaders and to raise the profile of trade union work to a wider audience. Said is an inspiring leader who has shown selflessness and lifelong dedication to his trade union colleagues and the pursuit of fair and just treatment for workers.”

Photo: Febe Elizabeth Velasquez