Academics protest against poor pay, working conditions

Academics in Morocco have taken a stand against poor pay and working conditions and have vowed to participate in monthly strikes and sit-ins in front of the education ministry in Rabat.

Photographs and videos of the protests were displayed on social media and included in news reports.

In a statement issued about the 10 March protest, a non-governmental organisation advocating for the rights of research professors at universities and research centres (IDCRP is the abbreviation in Arabic) said that, despite increases in prices and the cost of living, university professors’ salaries have largely been frozen for the past two decades.

The statement added that statistical studies showed that the average salary of a university professor had declined by 25% in terms of purchasing power from the year 2003, the last time this category of state employee received an increase.

“Salaries have also decreased dramatically after the recent increases in the contributions of university professors to save the Moroccan Pension Fund from bankruptcy,” the statement indicated.

A regional challenge

When the wages of Moroccan university professors are compared with those of their peers in other countries which are at the same level of economic and social development as Morocco, they find themselves in a group that receives the lowest wages, according to the statement.

This group includes Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The highest salary in Morocco was not comparable to crossing the middle-class threshold, according to a survey of Arab public university professors’ salaries adjusted for local spending power.

According to the latest World Bank statistics, the average annual income per capita in Morocco is about US$3,000.

The minimum salary for a professor at a Moroccan public university is about US$1,500 a month, with top pay not exceeding $3,000, as indicated by Al-Fanar Media.

Samir Khalaf Abd-El-Aal, a research professor at the National Research Center in Cairo, told University Word News that low salaries that did not increase over time were a common problem, not only in Morocco, but in most North African countries.

“Salaries vary in terms of level [position] and institutional affiliation or type. For instance, public or private,” Abd-El-Aal said. Salaries have worsened as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19, Abd-El-Aal added.

Studies proved that faculty workload, salary levels, rewards and benefits could be used to enhance commitment to a university as well as increasing performance and improving academic quality, according to Abd-El-Aal.

Continuous protests

The organisation IDCRP indicated that it will continue with its protest activities by holding strikes on 24 and 25 March, 6 and 7 April and 6 and 7 May.

In addition to organising protests at universities on 25 March, members of IDCRP will also gather in front of the national syndicate for higher education and scientific research (SNESUP) on 28 March.

SNESUP focuses on defending the rights of university staff as well as working on advancing national higher education and scientific research systems.

Rejecting contract system

IDCRP indicated that it will also launch an electronic petition to demand an urgent increase in their wages and to reject a new system of contract employment in Moroccan universities.

Already, the government has implemented a contract work system in schools since 2016, whereby employees are appointed on renewable two-year contracts, without benefits.

In response, contract teachers have been carrying out strikes and protests since 2019, calling for their integration into the public sector and an increase in their wages, according to Morocco World News.

Boycotting exams

IDCRP has also called on members to boycott the regular and remedial spring examinations, including basic and professional bachelor and masters courses as well as the discussions for bachelor, masters and doctoral research along with boycotting employment committees, and freezing membership in university structures.

A boycott would follow if the Moroccan Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research does not respond to the demands of the faculty members.

New bachelor system

IDCRP also called on research professors to boycott the reform and implementation of the bachelor system until the economic and social situation of research professors improves.

When the next academic year starts in September 2021, Moroccan universities will gradually be switching from the current Licence, Master, Doctorate (LMD) higher education system, mainly used in Francophone countries, towards the bachelor system used in the Anglophone world, according to Morocco World News.

University World News has contacted the Moroccan ministry, but has not received any response.