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jeudi 14 janvier 2010

British Gas… worst place to work…in Algeria

Days ago, while I was surfing the net, I came across this info about British Gas. It says that, for 5 consecutive years, British Gas is ranked among the top 50 places to work in UK. The ranking was based on a survey among British Gas employees. Considering the results, one would think it must be great to work for this company… not so sure, I thought…not in Algeria at least.

Obviously, those who rewarded British Gas didn’t know about the case of Meriem Mehdi.

This Algerian lady was an employee at this same company and now she is fighting for life as she is entering her second month of hunger strike to protest against her wrongful dismissal by the “good place to work” company. She is suffering from different health problems and had already been admitted to emergency service at hospital. She spent there, her New Year eve… in coma state. She can die anytime…nobody seems to care in British Gas…nobody seems to care in UK.

The SNAPAP, an independent Algerian trade union following Mehdi’s case, has issued a statement, accusing British Gas of breach of contract and calling for her immediate reintegration.

So far, British Gas Algeria has refused to meet the SNAPAP representatives for mediation talks in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Expecting nothing from a legal action against her employer that would drown her case within the maze of the Algerian legal system, Meriem Mehdi preferred to go on hunger strike to publicize her case for a fair resolution.

Actually, Meriem Mehdi has publicised more than her case. This issue shed light on the poor working conditions Algerians are enduring at multinational companies based in the oil-rich-south of Algeria. Newspapers are talking about different cases of wrongful dismissals and workplace harassments. In this part of Algeria, against the prevailing laws in our country, trade unions are simply banned and whoever may protest would be fired with no further consideration as it was the case of Zaid. Strange how these multinational companies in the south of Algeria seem to live in an independent zone, out of Algeria….out of law.

May be that is why Meriem Mehdi has chosen an uncommon way to protest.

Every day, I visit the facebook page of Meriem Mehdi as if I would go to visit a sick person at hospital. Wondering how she is today. Hoping she is getting well …somehow…and still alive. Hoping an issue, a fair one, has finally been reached… And every day I leave her weaker, alone under her blanket with nothing except her great determination to get her rights back. I leave her with this bitter feeling of guilt that I cannot do anything to help her….and with this feeling of anger against British Gas and all those oil companies that profit from the wealth of my country (oil and human beings alike) depriving our people from their rights with the shameful silent approving of our dear rulers.

I have to admit that I admire this lady. Meriem Mehdi’s struggle is not just against British Gas, it is also, in a sense, against: the giant UGTA (Algerian National trade Union), the Algerian legal system, the Algerian authorities… too much for one lonely woman…

I hope the end of this issue won’t be the end of Meriem Mehdi. I hope it would be the beginning of a time where all workers rights are fully respected in my beloved Algeria, especially in the region of the so wealthy…and so inaccessible south of Algeria.

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