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Morocco's Unions Protest Government, Economy

By PAUL SCHEMM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) â¿¿ Thousands of members of two of Morocco's largest labor unions marched through the capital on Sunday to protest the Islamist-led government's planned economic and labor reforms and its failure to stem unemployment and inflation.

Described as a "national march of protest" pushing for greater freedoms and rights, the few thousand demonstrators, brightly attired in yellow baseball caps and smocks, were smaller in number than past anti-government demonstrations by this North African nation's labor movement.

The protesters were particularly irate over government plans to reform laws dealing with labor unions, including docking the pay of strikers and measures that the government says would increase transparency in union finances.

Chanting, the "people want the fall of the government" and calling for the departure of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, the activists marched through the colonial-era streets of downtown Rabat in a light rain.

Benkirane's moderate Islamist party won the most seats in elections following pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, and he took the helm of the government promising to fight corruption and address the North African country's huge gap between the rich and the poor.

His fractious coalition has achieved little, however, and is currently embroiled in the sensitive process of reforming the massive subsidies and pension systems.

"The government has done nothing so far, not for the economy, not for social reforms and not even for the fight against corruption," said Bouchra Sandeel, a teacher from Marrakech marching in the demonstration.

She expressed fear that efforts to reform the subsidies on fuel and food staples would hit the poor hardest in this country of 32 million.

Talib Ait Ahmed, a cannery worker from the southern coast city of Agadir, said he was protesting for a better life for workers in the face of the rising food prices and widespread unemployment.

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