While a number of other Arab countries have been indulging in what has come to be known in the press as the ‘Arab Spring’ with various degrees of success, here in Algeria, various factions of the ‘civil society’ (if such an entity indeed exists here) have preferred indulging in strikes. The sole objective of all these strikes has been to demand a pay increase. I am not sure how to interpret this turn of events, there is probably a lot to be said and many angles from which these strikes could be interpreted. But in this post, I am going to focus on the medical interns’ strike which has been the longest running strike so far compared to all the other strikes which have taken place in the aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’ (correct me if am wrong).
It is not easy to get to the bottom of this crisis (in the Health Sector), but the demands of the medical interns’ seem to be around three aspects: (1) more money, (2) fewer exams and (3) no civil service (that is where newly qualified doctors are obliged by legislation to practice (for a government paid salary) in far-off and under-privileged locations such as the desert or other small towns which suffer from lack of health services).
I should mention that in Algeria, university education, even medical studies, remains completely free and heavily subsidised by the government. Regardless of the quality of said education, this is an important factor in the equation. Besides, judging by the relative success of Algerian nationals who have been educated in Algeria and who then decide to practice their skills (and develop them) abroad, the quality of the national education cannot be that dire, even though there has definitely been the equivalent of a landslide in ‘standards’.
The idea of this post is to exchange opinions on this strike and the demands behind it. In order to make it more constructive, I suggest we keep away from casting blame on such or such and focus instead on considering this situation with the aim of extracting what it tells us as individual algerians on the social, cultural and whatever else situation in our country.
I shall inaugurate by giving one aspect that really irritates me about this strike. I couldn’t have expressed it in better words than a commentator on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ (a comment posted on a totally irrelevant British news story on some trade union):
Dear members of the ‘narrow society’,
I’m part of the ‘wider society’. Please do not frame your attempts to increase your own pay and job opportunities as a benefit to me, when doing so through strike action explicitly inconveniences me and pretty much everyone else.
A normal working person who isn’t a member of a union.
What do you think? Ilaikoum el khat.