Socialist Worker

Trade union protesters fill streets of Tunis

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2292

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Tunisia’s capital Tunis on Saturday to protest against the government.

The protests were a response to attacks on trade union buildings that have been taking place across the country.

It was the biggest demonstration in Tunisia since the downfall of the country’s former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The demonstration began outside the offices of UGTT, the country’s main trade union federation.

Some in UGTT blame the attacks on members of Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party. In the most serious incident a fire seriously damaged a UGTT branch office in Feriana and destroyed official documents.

The Tunis rally began with a few hundred workers and trade unionists.

But it swelled to over 4,000 as people marched through Tunis to the interior ministry’s headquarters.

Municipal workers including rubbish collectors began a four-day strike on Saturday. They are demanding better pay and working conditions


Strikes are on the rise in Tunisia. They played a vital role in the movement that toppled Ben Ali last year.

High unemployment and low wages have fuelled industrial unrest. There have been lightning strikes and sit-ins in a number of regions, particularly in the southwest of the country.

The trade unions are deeply rooted in the industrial port city of Sfax. There are many rumours that workers there are planning an unofficial walkout.

“Citizens, wake up! The government is messing with you!” was a chant heard throughout Saturday’s protests.

Many fear that the new government has stepped into the shoes of the old regime when it comes to repressing dissent and opposition.

At one point police fired tear gas into the crowd to break up the protest.

An Ennahda minister later said this was because the demonstration had gone over its time slot.

But the men and women who marched—and the strikers across the country—show that people in Tunisia are still prepared to fight for their freedom.

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Tue 28 Feb 2012, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2292
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