27 February 2013 – The ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) today proposed embattled Moroccan trade unionist Said Elhairech for the Febe Elisabeth Velasquez prize, an international award that recognises those who take personal risks to defend trade union rights in their countries.
Said Elhairech, the general secretary of the Moroccan Ports Union, was unexpectedly given a one year jail sentence last week. His colleague, Mohamed Chamchati, the general secretary of the Moroccan merchant seafarers’ union, was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment. Both men had been arrested in June 2012 on wildly improbable charges of sabotage and endangering national security. In the face of the men’s obvious innocence and international protests led by the ITF the charges were dropped at the end of last year. Both men are appealing against the sudden imposition of jail sentences against them.
The Febe Elisabeth Velasquez award is organised every two years by Dutch trade union the FNV and is named after an El Salvadorean union leader murdered in 1989. In proposing Said for it the ITF 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. But he is again under threat.
‘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.’