Friday, 1 July 2011

Algeria: Survey reveals Sonatrach disatisfaction

In May, Sonatrach PDG Nordine Cherouati ordered a survey of the social climate within Sonatrach which discovered a general malaise in some 20 industrial centres around the whole country. The 50-page document describes “anger” and “general discontent” which it said was more to do with “a long term bad situation” rather than any specific problem of the moment. It blamed the company's management for neglecting the “human factor” so that “kindness and consideration have given place to a tense and stressful environment”. The authors of the report described encounters with “people bullied and suffering from injustices who deplored the lack of any dynamism and momentum to unite their efforts and to stimulate them”.

Sonatrach workers are, of course, oppressed by the high cost of living combined with low salaries and uncertain bonuses and other benefits. Other grievances include poor working conditions, with a lack of spare parts and necessary tools. The health and safety regime is inadequate; protective equipment and safety standards are not in place. Much of this is blamed on centralised and outdated management and a tendering process which favours the very lowest offers.

Another structural inadequacy brought out by the report is the control which the Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA) national trade union has over decisions and social life within the company, which it says has only “fosterered subjectivism and non-professionalism.”

The precise meaning of this criticism is hard to define. However, it appears to be related to the fact that the UGTA is less a channel for expression of genuine workers' demands as a mechanism to help management keep the workforce in check. Cherouati's survey has landed him with a list of demands. Workers want the system of remuneration introduced in 2008 to be scrapped, base salaries to be increased and bonuses and allowances to be reorganised. Other demands include reforms to promotion schemes, retirement allowances, healthcare and training.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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