The general union in Tunisia, the UGTT, has been the only counter-power to the regime. But under Ben Ali it became very tame and the leadership very corrupt.
In the 23 years of Ben Ali’s rule, it didn’t challenge his policies.
Yet in times of crisis you know this is the only organisation you can use from the grassroots.
However deep the corruption and weakness, there are many militants and leftists inside the unions.
Since the revolution, working conditions have got worse.
Tunisia was attractive to foreign capitalists because the regime made sure workers had no rights.
But most of them started to leave as soon as workers started demanding rights.
Many more workers are unemployed now than before the revolution.
The economy is going into stagnation.
There are elections in the unions soon. They will be an opportunity to get rid of the old leadership and their baggage, and win the credibility of people.
The government has little flexibility. The dictator and his family ran away with the gold, and Tunisia has lots of debt which is likely to get worse.
It doesn’t have the tools to buy social peace.
There are some new independent unions growing, mainly in textiles. This industry is large and in crisis, and workers are heavily exploited.
Independent unions aren’t growing as much as they are in Egypt, but it is important all the same.