Mauritania: Nouakchott’s Cleaners are Victims of a Deal between the Government and the French company PIZZORNO


Mauritania_ The General Secretary of the Service Workers Trade Union, Alwaled weld Alman,conducted a meeting with some dismissed workers from PIZZORNO at the headquarters of the union located in the Schools’ Complex, Nouakchott. They gathered on a genuine tea sitting that made AlWaledto step down from his modest desk towards the plastic bed where the tea is served.

WeldAlman said: “We were working in work conditions where the minimum of safety requirements is not available, and this was the reason that made many of us exposed to accidents. We had to confront piles of wasteand stinky dust stemmed from them without having masks or glasses. Sometimes we finished our workwith the bad smells stuck in our noses to the extent that prevented some of us to eat anything all day long.

“Our main demand is to safeguard our rights - especially that the law is very clear concerning the company- as a lot of time and efforts were wastedand we will not accept that our movements will end up with nothing but conciliations, tricks, and promises”.

We can’t accept that anymore, because we have spent two years so far without work and we haven’t earned any of our entitlements since then. Thismade us spend most of our time in the trade union, or stand for protesting before the presidency building or the prime ministry.

Thespeech stopped for few minutes, while the dismissed worker from PIZZORNO Mohammad bin Minanserves the tea cups to the group, before he interferes:

“Workers can’t wait to see what the government will do, because what itdoes all the time is nothing but stalling, especially the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, who just give us windy promises every time.

Rather, the government has to pay the workers their required entitlements, and undertake the deductionof those entitlements from the company’s money.The government knows better how to do this for it is dealing with the company directly.

In his turn, the delegate of the dismissed workers, Ba MohammadoHamadiperceives that the government is the party to be blamed for bringing PIZZORNO to the country, and thenstood away watching what is going on between the company and the workers. He angrily continues with his African accent:

“They are always repeating that the administration is close to the citizen. This was not the case when 20 of our fellow workers passed away throughout our journey of demanding our entitlements, and this also was not the case with the 500 old women, widows, and divorced women who share the same fate with us.”

We have not seensuchoppression and violations that we are exposed to nowadays in the neighboring countries, how couldn’t they enforce a judgment issued by the court!? Why the sale of the company’s equipment was stopped and then resumes after a while!? 

We need to know the reasons behind all of this. Does that happen to us because we are not considered as citizens and because we do not have rights? And if so, isn’t it a crime?

Despite our long suffering, our movement remained peaceful and responsible, in fact we are so tired and all we need is the enforcement of the judgments in our interest and to get our rights.”

In 2007, Mauritania has signed a ten- years contract with the French cleaning company PIZZORNO. Pursuant tothis contract, PIZZORNO undertakes the processing ofthe household solid wasteand the similar things in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott for a sum ofMRO 2,110,000,000 (two billion, one hundred and ten million). That was before the decision of the government to terminatethe contract unilaterally on the ground of a dispute with the company. The company claimed that the contract was signed seven years ago, and that during these years the Capital has extendeddue to urbanization which accompanied the planning of slums, making it necessary to raise the allocated amount for the company. On the other hand, the government said that the amount was very more than enough to clean the city in a way much better than the way followed by the current company.

As a responseby the company to the failure by the government to paytheoutstanding amounts, which reached about 4 billion MRO according to the company’s estimations and 2 billion MRO according to the official estimations–the company suspended its works for a week. Accordingly, the company was served a notice contract termination on June 2nd, 2014.

The company stopped paying the wages of the workers from June. Then the workers started demandingtheir wages in mid of July, which was refused by the company under the plea that they would be in a position to fulfill these obligations as long as the government refuses to pay the outstanding amounts.

At the end of November, the workers received their wages for the months from June to August 2014, leaving the wages of three other months (from September to November 2014) unpaid

On 23th of December 2014, the company dismissed the workers leaving them unemployed and denied their rights, and their entitlements for another 4 months pursuant to contract with the company. In addition to the amount of 900 million MROallocated for supplies (allowances and other things) which the company undertook to pay in installments, through inclusion of the said amount in the workers’ wages until full payment.

The struggle continues...

Tens of workers continue their demonstrations in Nouakchott against the termination of their service in PIZZORNO (a branch of the French company DRAGUI TRANSPORTS). PIZZORNO has been removing solid wasteoff the streets of Nouakchott during the last 7 years, before the termination of its contract unilaterally two years and 6 months ago.

The workers of PIZZORNO started to suffer since May 2014, when the company decided to stop the work temporarily , leaving themunemployed.

About 1223 workers half of them are women, are demanding their entitlementsthrough payment of all the rights as stipulated under imposed by the collective employment agreement (being outstanding salaries and collective termination entitlements) on the French company when the company decided to dismiss the workers, through implementation of the judgment issued to their interest against the company.

Member of the follow-up committee assigned by the workers,AlmukhtarWeld A’amar said:”our current situation started when the company sent a letter to the concerned authorities stating that it is not in a financial positionto continuewith the contract, and that the company cannot continue its works unless its dues are paid by 23th of May 2014.

on May 23th, the work has actually stopped until the 29th of the same month when the Urban Development Authorityserved a notice to the company to terminate the contract should they fail to resume the work. The company resumed its work at 12:00 afternoon of the same day.

Since that day, the regional administration and security authorities started to annoy the companys vehicles until the company was notified by the Authorityof terminating of their contract asof May 23th, (First Notice Date).  

Consequently, we started a series of protests for non-payment of our wages. This resulted in organizing a sit-in at the beginning of September 2014 lasted for 20 days. The Companys Director promised us to mobilize a sum of moneyto fulfil our entitlements, but we only earned the wages of three months since then. We still demand the entitlements of the other 4 months, in addition to the dismissal entitlements.

Till this day, 1223 workers of the company are still unemployed without having their rights as a result of contract termination with PIZZORNO by the government in May 2014. 

Upon our dismissal from the company, we entered into a series of protests. These protests were stopped when the government promised us to guarantee our rights, and that it has sums of money out of which the company shall pay our entitlements.

Nevertheless, the government declined itspromises to us, so we decided to resort to judiciary; we managed to get a judgment in our favor which was then supported by a decision of compulsory enforcement, however; the government is still reluctant in the enforcement thereof.

New twists…

To this end, the dismissed workers discovered a document whichmay prove that they were victims of a bargain between the Mauritanian Government and the French company (PIZZORNO) under which a commission was transferred into the company’s account throughout a foreign account.

The document revealed that it was related to thefinal payment concerning the business protocol of DRAGUI TRANSPORTS. It also revealed that the amount wasMRO 2,267,260,608 (EUR 6,326,238.48).

The amount was transferred 0n February 8th, 2015 by the DirectorateGeneral of Treasury and Public Accounting of Mauritania from account No. 3200100 to the account of DRAGUI TRANSPORTS No. Fr76100961850002478430189 at Banque de France.

The Confederation interferes

The General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM) declared that it had startedpreparing to file a case in France against PIZZORNO on the ground of the Companys violation to the guidelines of the Economic Cooperation and Development Organization (OECD).

CGTM blamed the Mauritanian government for the problems encountered by the workers of PIZZORNO as the government discharged the entitlements of the company through bank transfers into its foreign accounts, and refused to implement the judicial decisionsin favor of the workers.

The ten representatives who represent the workers of PIZZORNO are affiliates of the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers. They presented on behalf of the demonstrators a petition of demands on the top of which, claiming significant compensations that were accumulated over the past years out of the outstanding wages and the entitlements against collective layoff.