Morocco: Strikes and demonstrations demand better conditions for contract teachers

published 24 March 2021 updated 26 March 2021

Despite harassment and violence by police forces, Moroccan teachers' unions continue to demonstrate in the capital city, Rabat, to demand permanent contracts and better working conditions. They are also protesting against the rising cost of living.

The protests are part of an ongoing campaign over recent weeks. The unions have called for strike action days from 23 March until 5 April in solidarity with their colleagues under contractual employment.

The teacher unions have also denounced the lack of social dialogue. In addition, protesters have turned down government proposals to end the dispute, saying the proposals were unsatisfactory. Teachers, mostly young professionals in their 20s and 30s, have been staging regular strikes over recent weeks in different Moroccan cities.

Teachers’ demonstrations brutally repressed

On 15 March, Moroccan police forces in riot gear used water cannon to end an overnight sit-in of 15,000 teachers outside the Parliament. They violently dispersed the demonstration in the capital city. As a result, education unions have requested an open investigation to identify and prosecute those who used violent means against peaceful demonstrators.

COVID-19 crisis used to deny educators’ right to strike

Under the state of emergency proclaimed in March 2020 to counter the COVID-19 epidemic, public authorities have banned gatherings and protests. The government is using the health, economic and social crisis to repress workers’ fundamental rights and to adopt regressive legislation such as that relating to the right to strike.

Previous strikes in November 2020 were organised by Morocco's Democratic Confederation of Labour and the National Federation of Education, as a continuation of actions undertaken by the National Coordination of Forcibly Contractual Teachers (NCFCT). All of Education International’s member organisations in Morocco are part of the NCFCT – a group representing contract teachers created in 2017.

Contractual teachers, who describe themselves as “forcibly contractual educators”, started their strike in 2019 with a call for full integration in the public sector.

The NCFCT reported and condemned the fact that the government deducted $162 (€137) from the salaries of contract teachers who took part in protests in 2019 and 2020. It has called for legal due process for teachers facing dismissal, protection of the right to strike, periodic pay increases, increased teacher training, improved student transport, and construction of more schools.

Ongoing governmental refusal to listen to teachers’ demands

Since 2019, teacher unions have been coming together to protest the precarity of teachers’ employment conditions.

On 20 February 2019 – to mark the anniversary of the Arab Spring – thousands of teachers took

to the streets peacefully in Rabat to demand that the government respects their labour rights. They were

met by violence, as security forces fired water cannons and charged teachers with batons. This was followed by cross-union strikes of an unprecedented scale, with over 70,000 teachers participating in strikes for over three weeks.

On 23 March 2019 – on the anniversary of the student protests in 1965 which resulted in several deaths – over 10,000 teachers protested in Rabat to demand change.

Contract teachers disadvantaged

While contract teachers have the same starting salary – about 5,000 dirhams (€470) - as their colleagues on permanent public employee contracts, they do not enjoy the same benefits for healthcare or pensions.

Contractual teachers also only receive a two-week training after their university studies – other teachers receive a one-year school-based training - and have fewer opportunities for promotion and no clear career pathway.

This has led to a deep inequality within the teaching workforce, as teachers on contracts lack basic labour rights and job security.

Eighty per cent of teachers working under contractual conditions are under 30 years of age and, according to their representatives, feel coerced into accepting the poor employment conditions due to a lack of alternative employment options. In fact, 23.2 per cent of the Moroccan population under 30 years of age are unemployed.

Increasing number of contract teachers since 2016

Temporary teaching contracts were introduced in Morocco in 2016 and, since then, more than 50,000 teachers have been hired under this system. For the unions, this is part of the government’s continuing effort to reduce public spending. Currently, 55,000 teachers are hired under precarious contracts, representing almost 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. Contract teachers can be fired for ‘making a mistake’ without notice, compensation, or recourse. However, what constitutes a mistake is not defined in the contract.