Rabat- After being convicted of discrimination by more than 800 Moroccan railway workers, the French National Railway Company (SNCF) finally decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, by paying a total estimated at EUR 160 million to the workers, in compensation for their “moral damage, career, training and retirement,” AFP reported.
The workers, referred to as Chibanis (which translates to older workers with “white hair”), were recruited in the 1960s and ‘70s as contract workers, after France and the newly independent Kingdom of Morocco signed an agreement allowing France to recruit approximately 2,000 Moroccans to work in the French railway system, due to a shortage of manpower.
Fifty years later, 800 of them spoke out against the injustices they endured and sued the SNCF for more than EUR 600 million, as they accused the company for not treating them as full employees.
In 2015, the Council of Paris Industrial Tribunal officially charged the SNCF with discrimination against Moroccan railway workers, who had filed complaints and fought for a reported 10-15 years while waiting to be acknowledged and compensated by the railway company.
The SNCF appealed the rulings, but a Paris court upheld the decision last February, stating that the discrimination was blatant and that the company “did not demonstrate that this difference in treatment was justified by objective reasons.”
In addition to being convicted of discrimination, the court also ordered the France’s national rail operator to pay over EUR 160 million as compensatory damages to the workers, according to their defense lawyer Clelie de Lesquen-Jonas, who said that the ruling was a great victory to them.
In a statement to AFP, the SNCF indicated that it will not form an appeal cassation, wishing “an appeasement with the Moroccan workers.”
The French daily reported that checks have already begun to be distributed to former railway workers and their widows.