Members of medical labor unions protested in Algeria’s hospitals amid national calls for new democracy.
Rabat – Members of Algeria’s medical labor unions went on strike and organized hospital sit-ins on Wednesday against deteriorating labor conditions and insufficient pay during the pandemic.
Organizations such as the National Union of Public Health Practitioners (SNPSP), the National Union of University Hospital Teachers Researchers (SNECHU), and the Algerian Paramedical Union (SAP) striked to protest against the dangerous work conditions and lack of government resources.
Union members cited the risk of COVID-19 transmission as an occupational hazard and requested pandemic pay premiums, 100% healthcare coverage, and pension bonuses for the frontline workers.
Union organizers claimed the government paid the first pandemic pay premium seven months late, forcing healthcare workers to wait for over $300 million (DZD 40 billion).
At the beginning of the pandemic, Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune authorized quarterly payouts of up to $300 (DZD 40,000) for healthcare workers. However, the Ministry of Finance froze the payments in September 2020 due to a lack of funding.
President of the Algerian Paramedical Union Rachid Belhadj claimed, “the suspension of this bonus, while the pandemic is still ongoing, arouses incomprehension and expectations among health personnel who feel unfairly abandoned in a very critical situation.”
The Algerian government responded to the strikes in a statement, promising to resume payouts and pay healthcare workers “in excess.”
Medical labor unions of Algeria striked alongside the Hirak Movement and other sit-ins took place in hospitals countrywide.
Both the Hirak Movement that protested in the streets of Algiers in late March and the new labor strikes of Algeria’s medical unions show little progress in the fight for democracy. Many expect the protests will continue until the early parliamentary elections in June 2021.
One member of the recent Hirak protests, Ali Lekhdari, stated that the movement would not stop at the elections: “The people want a complete change and not just elections. Elections are one of the changes among a global change that the people want.”