Tunisia: Public sector general strike paralyses the country

On Thursday, a reported 750,000 public sector workers went on a nationwide strike in Tunisia, called by the UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers, the main trade union organisation) against the pay freeze and other austerity policies imposed by the IMF, in collaboration with the current government of Youssef Chahed. Public services were largely paralysed, schools and university faculties were closed, while flights, port activities, public transport, hospitals and other services were also disrupted. Tens of thousands of people gathered at the UGTT headquarters in the capital Tunis, and marched through the capital’s central Bourguiba avenue, shouting anti-government and anti-IMF slogans such as “Get out!”, “The people want the fall of the regime”, “People and workers united against the IMF”, etc. Similar rallies and demonstrations were held in many other cities and towns across Tunisia. CWI comrades intervened in the protests in Tunis, selling their paper and distributing hundreds of copies of their leaflet. Below, a translation of that leaflet and a few pictures from the demonstration in Tunis.

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The neo-liberal policies adopted by the successive governments before and after the December 17-January 14 revolution were and still are contrary to the aims and demands of the Tunisian revolution, and reflect the sole interests of a minority that monopolizes the nation’s wealth and deepens the class divide, through so-called “development choices” which are fundamentally hostile to the revolution’s demands for “freedom, dignity and social justice”.  

Following the failure of the recent social negotiations between the current government and the UGTT on the increase of the wages in the public sector, the trade union leadership was forced to call for a public sector general strike on January 17 to defend the interests of the working class, which was approved for January 17. Tayaar al’Amal al Qaa’dii [CWI in Tunisia] affirms its unconditional support for this strike.

The political responsibility for the failure of the social negotiations lays fully at the door of the current government, which continues to pursue economic choices sharpening the social marginalisation and exclusion in the cities and in the countryside, depriving growing layers of the Tunisian people of the most elementary elements for a decent life.

We call on all workers, the poor and the marginalised to unite and to root their demands in sustained mobilising and organising against the policies of endless impoverishment imposed by all governments since the eruption of our revolution in 2011.The interests of the working class and of all the marginalised and downtrodden layers of the population can only be satisfied if we recognise our enemies in the capitalist class which control the wealth and political power in the country, and struggle for a clear alternative that enshrines the society of “freedom, dignity and social justice” that the majority is aspiring to.

 Flowing from that, we say:

-Stop the IMF plans and the repayment of the debt – for wages and social coverage adapted to the cost of living

-No to privatisations – for the renationalisation of privatised companies, for the public ownership of the banks, large companies and large agricultural estates, under democratic control

-For a large public investment plan in infrastructure and regional development, to provide decent and well-paid jobs for the unemployed

-For a general strike of both public and private sectors combined, as the next step to build a sustained plan of social and trade union mobilisation against the Chahed government

-For a government of workers, poor peasants and youth

-International resistance and solidarity of the workers, marginalised and young people, against the global capital and its agents – for a socialist society

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January 2019