The dispute between RAM and the pilots union is not new. In 2018, pilots affiliated to the company launched a four-month strike that inflicted steep losses upon the company and resulted in flight cancellations.
By Safaa Kasraoui and Morgan Hekking
Rabat – Morocco’s national flag carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is planning to launch a new strategy to survive the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis—a strategy that may include mass layoffs.
RAM fleets have been grounded without activity since mid-March, except for cargo aircraft and a handful of others that the country deployed to repatriate citizens stranded abroad.
The airline reported losing $109.1 million per month since the start of the state of emergency on March 20. Minister of Tourism Nadia Fettah El Alaoui indicated in a House of Representatives meeting on June 8 that RAM was developing a recovery plan that accounts for International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts.
In recent months, IATA has consistently predicted a severe decrease in international air travel and related revenue and job losses.
The works committee of the company held a meeting on Thursday, July 2, to examine the company’s financial recovery strategy.
Quoting a letter from Royal Air Maroc’s CEO Abdelhamid Addou to the president of Moroccan Association of Airline Pilots (AMPL), Moroccan outlet Le360 reported that the council met under article 66 of the Labor Code, which governs layoffs.
RAM’s rift with employee representation
The outlet reported the day prior that AMPL declined to attend the meeting, as the legal basis for the gathering was still unclear. Royal Air Maroc had not specified to AMPL whether the meeting would fall under article 466 of the Labor Code, concerning advisory missions, or in accordance with article 66, concerning layoffs.
In response to the declined invitation, Addou wrote to the AMPL president: “You demanded that this meeting be bilateral while this convocation, which took place within the framework of the provisions of article 66 of the Labor Code, places on the employer the obligation to consult with the works council and the [unionists] exclusively and does not in any way impose on it any consultation with the staff associations created within the company.”
“However, we felt that your presence at this meeting was desirable given the gravity of the subjects to be discussed during this meeting and their impact on the situation of your members,” the RAM CEO added in the letter.
Addou penned the statement in response to a letter from AMPL, which said Moroccan airline pilots believe that RAM’s decision to invite the association’s president to the meeting violates 40 years of strictly bilateral social dialogue.
“Would it be reasonable to sit punctually as guests in an advisory body which has hardly ever met in accordance with the laws and regulations in force? Would it be constructive to sit in on it without having had all the data and all the documents relating to the agenda?” asked AMPL in its letter.
Representatives affiliated with the Moroccan Labor Union (UMT) confirmed their attendance at the meeting to Le360 but expressed frustration with the lack of information relating to payroll, among other grievances.
The rift between RAM and AMPL is not exclusive, as the two experienced several similar tensions in recent years.
In 2018, pilots launched strikes that caused 150 flight delays and cancellations.
The pilots started the strike on July 18, asking for better conditions and a salary raise of up to MAD 15,000 ($1,546) per month.
The strikes lost the company approximately MAD 20 million ($2 million) per day due to canceled and delayed flights, less than half of the daily loss caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The company finally reached an agreement with the union to end the four-week pilot strike after several meetings to end the dispute.