| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Powerful Tunisian trade union defies president with mass protests

On Saturday, thousands of UGTT members protested in eight towns against President Kais Saied’s policies, charging that he was attempting to suppress fundamental freedoms like union rights.

Following the union’s criticism of the recent arrests of various anti-government personalities, including politicians, a journalist, two judges, and a top UGTT official, the rallies in eight cities signaled an intensification of its conflict with Saied.

The coordinated arrests have raised fears of a wider crackdown on dissent and prompted the U.N. Human Rights Office to call for the detainees’ immediate release.

In Saturday’s demonstrations, thousands of protesters in the southern city of Sfax carried national flags and banners with slogans including “Stop the attack on union freedoms” and “Cowardly Saied, the union is not afraid.”.

Senior UGTT official Othman Jalouli told the crowd Saied’s government “wants to silence the voice of the union”.

Protests also took pace in the cities of Jendouba, Tozeur, Monastir, Bizerte, Kasserine, Kairouan and Nabeul.

More demonstrations are planned in other cities in the coming days, concluding with a rally in the capital, Tunis, early next month.

Addressing the Sfax protest, Esther Lynch, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said she had come to convey a message of support from 45 million European trade unionists and called for the immediate release of detained union officials.

  • Reuters