Intro Tunisia

Tunisia is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people

In Tunisia, the government further restricted civil liberties and harassed and persecuted trade union leaders. The authorities adopted Decree No. 54, which penalises the mere expression of dissent, protest or demand with a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of TND 50,244 (US$ 16,279). The decree was applied with maximum rigour by the authorities. With this penalty dangling over their heads, trade union activists daring to carry out their normal duties are at constant risk of arrest and harsh sentencing.

Meanwhile, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) monitored dozens of social media pages dedicated to attacking the organisation and demonising trade union work and trade unionists. On 3 May 2023, the Public Prosecution referred Nasser Ben Amara, the General Secretary of the Syndicat de base des agents et cadres du ministère des Affaires culturelles to prison for a post on Facebook criticising the President of the Republic. In the ensuing court case, he was cleared of the allegations of contempt by a public officer in the performance of his or her duties.

Credit: Chedly BEN IBRAHIM / NurPhoto via AFP

Members of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) in Tunis demand the protection of social dialogue, union rights and social agreements. Democratic space diminished further in the country as the government continued to restrict civil liberties and persecute trade union leaders.

Arrest of trade union leader

Taher Mezzi, Deputy General Secretary in charge of the private sector in the UGTT, was arrested on 29 February 2024 in what, according to the UGTT, was “a purely political decision and a fabricated affair”. While calling for Mezzi’s release and for the case to be dropped, the UGTT considers that the arrest, which came just before a scheduled protest movement in La Kasbah, was aimed at weakening and threatening the union, and hindering the independent trade union movement overall.