The ITF is hailing its Maritime Roundtable, which ended late last Thursday the 27th of September in Casablanca, Morocco, as a real success and a major boost to its campaign to free unfairly jailed trade unionists Said Elhairech and Mohamed Chamchati.
ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton said: “This event has been a huge campaigning step forward. It has brought together a new generation of seafarer and docker activists and given them a voice. Backed by the shared experience of colleagues from the international trade union movement, it has produced a wealth of ideas that will feed into our future campaigning. We look forward to maritime unions working together more collaboratively and encouraging organising and activism among their membership”
ITF general secretary David Cockroft commented: ‘But just as importantly, this three day event has helped us to help our colleagues Said and Mohamed, the victims of ridiculous legal charges – and, we believe, has helped us bring their inevitable release from custody closer.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “This has been a brilliantly successful event that was marred only by the absence of two men who ought to have been here, Said and Mohamed. We will not rest until they are once again free to take up their trade union work.”
On that morning (27 Sept) over 205 participants from 51 countries again heard from Said Elhairech, whose voice, speaking to them directly from jail, was broadcast around the Roundtable event. He told them: “My dear Brothers and Sisters participating in the MRT meeting, I express my sincere gratitude for all the support you have given me. And for your work with regards to union freedom and strengthening the role of union work in our countries. All my fellow leaders and affiliates of the ITF attending the meeting and those not here in Morocco, I send you all my greetings and regards and I assure you that we will go on with this struggle, not fearing anyone. Long live the workers worldwide, long live the ITF, long live the UMT.”
The previous day (26 Sept) female representatives attending the Roundtable visited Said’s wife and children at their home, to express their sympathy and solidarity, and pledge their continuing support.
The entire meeting also passed a resolution committing the ITF and its member unions to: “be ready to act in response to any developments, bearing in mind that trade volumes in and out of Morocco may rely on Morocco’s maintaining its global reputation, an important part of which stems from the country’s respect for international conventions and trade union rights.”
As the Roundtable come close to its end, all the participants signed the following letter, which was sent to Morocco’s prime minister and ministers of justice and the interior:
“Today, 205 maritime trade union leaders and activists representing 51 countries around the world, who have been meeting in Casablanca over the past three days under the auspices of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), have discussed thoroughly the cases of detained transport leaders, Said Elhairech, general secretary of the ITF-affiliated Union des Syndicats UMT des Transports and chair of the ITF Arab World regional committee, and general secretary of the merchant seafarers’ union Mohamed Chamchati.
The meeting’s clear view was that both trade union leaders were detained purely on the basis of their trade union activities, carried out in defence of their docker and seafarer union members, both inside and outside Morocco. The meeting declared its full support for the UMT in its efforts to bring about the release of both leaders and agreed a common position of transport unions inside and outside Morocco, calling for:
1. The immediate and unconditional release of both Said Elhairech and Mohamed Chamchati, especially since judicial investigations into the cases have been completed, proving that both leaders were simply exercising their rights – as guaranteed under the Moroccan constitution – to support and protect their trade union members, inside and outside Morocco. In addition to defending their members inside Morocco, both leaders supported abandoned Moroccan seafarers abroad, who were left without food, wages and protection;
2. Official confirmation that both leaders are not guilty of the charges brought against them, and an acknowledgement that they have been unjustly imprisoned for over 100 days, causing them and their families severe distress and damage;
3. A declaration of your government’s respect for the right of trade unions to organise and bargain collectively, especially in full consideration of that fact that Morocco has ratified both ILO Conventions nos. 87 and 98.
4. Finally, the trade unionists agreed to monitor closely these cases, recognising the seriousness of a matter that involves the heads of two ITF-affiliated unions. They resolved to be ready to act in response to any developments, bearing in mind that trade volumes in and out of Morocco rely on Morocco’s maintaining its global good reputation, an important part of which stems from your country’s respect for international conventions and trade union rights.
Your excellency, we are quite sure that your government will resolve this matter correctly, taking such action as is necessary to release both union leaders immediately and at the same time impact positively on Morocco and its global reputation.”