Rabat/Nouakchott — Morocco will boost the minimum wage in both the public and private sectors, authorities announced just before Labour Day (May 1st).
The news came after a meeting between the government, trade unions and employers' organisations was held in Rabat on April 29th.
Effective July, the minimum public sector pay will rise from 2,800 dirhams to 3,000 dirhams. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in the private sector, which is currently 2,333.76 dirhams, will be raised by 10% over two years, starting with a 5% boost in July 2014 and a further 5% in July 2015.
Decisions were also taken to raise the minimum retirement pension paid by the Collective Retirement Benefit Scheme (RCAR) and to increase student grants, with no particular amount being specified.
The medical cover provided by the National Social Security Office will be extended to the parents of insured persons once a feasibility study has been completed.
Employment Minister Abdeslam Seddiki has expressed optimism. He said the government was determined to continue its dialogue with unions, employers and business partners and to address their demands. However, he also gave a reminder of the financial constraints that all parties need to take into account.
"We have agreed with the unions to organise talks at sector level, taking the specific nature of each sector into account and to hold consultation meetings on big issues such as the reforms to the Subsidisation Fund and pension schemes," the minister underlined.
The government implemented all of the measures that were adopted during the 2011 talks - at a cost of 19 billion dirhams, he noted.
Although the government is satisfied with the way the negotiations are going, the labour movement remains sceptical. The secretary-general of the Democratic Labour Federation (FDT), Abderrahmane Azzouzi, said that all of the unions' grievances remain unresolved.
"The government has acted in a unilateral manner in requesting that the talks about our demands be postponed," he said.
Three unions have joined forces in a bid to put pressure on the government. The Moroccan Labour Union, the Democratic Labour Federation and the Democratic Labour Confederation are celebrating Labour Day this year with the same slogan: "United and mobilised to fulfil the legitimate demands of the working class and tackle all challenges".
Among other demands, the unions are calling for workers' spending power to be boosted, for wages and pensions to be increased, for collective and personal freedoms to be respected, and for social insurance to be extended to all workers.
Hamza Tahiri, a 45-year-old accountant, said that the most vulnerable people in all this were the workers, who are seeing their spending power collapse day by day: "There is a big difference between what is being said and the reality. Wages are not moving, while prices are going up every month. The poor and middle classes are suffering. The government needs to knuckle down to the task of protecting people's spending power."
Difficult situation for Mauritanian workers
Workers in Mauritania are also marking Labour Day amid tough economic circumstances.
While the government said there has been substantial improvement in employment law and workers' living standards, national trade union federations feel that the situation is "untenable".
"This year's celebrations are taking place in a context characterised by the constant deterioration of living standards for the masses in general and workers in particular," the National Front for Democracy and Unity (FNDU) said.
Among other things, the FNDU mentioned "the freeze on wages as prices soar; mass redundancies; [and] endemic unemployment, especially among young people".
The FNDU launched an appeal "to all workers and all components of our nation to join forces in a single battle to bring the country out of the many-sided crisis in which it is struggling and to build a united, democratic and prosperous Mauritania".