Employees of the Tunisian National Company of Railways (SNCFT) initiated a local strike at the Sfax railway station on Wednesday, November 2nd at 11:10am. The strike suspended all train service between Sfax and Gabes as well as from Sfax to Gafsa. Due to the ongoing labor dispute, SNCFT has been renting buses to transport passengers out of Sfax.
A delegation of managers from SNCFT was immediately dispatched to Sfax and met with representatives of the union. While the negotiations concluded with no signs of settlement, splits in the ranks of strikers caused the resumption of train service at 10:50 PM on November 3rd.
According to the Sfax regional director of SNCFT’s stations and transport, Mr. Riadh Chenni, the strike was announced suddenly while a train was about to depart from Sfax to Tunis. Subsequently the strike was adopted by the train workers’ union.
“Normally 10 days notice must be given for a strike to give company managers the opportunity to minimize disruptions to train services, but this action was spontaneous and illegal,” said a frustrated Chenni. Chenni added that SNCFT management wanted a chance for negotiation with strikers because management was not given the reasons for the strike in advance.
According to the strikers, many demands have been made that have been ignored by management, especially in relation to amending the principal laws of the company. Given the high number of passengers during the Eid period, it is an opportune time for the workers to raise the standards of their demands.
Since the fall of the Ben Ali dictatorship, Tunisian unionists have organized strikes and labor stoppages to defend their new-found rights to make demands from either the Government or from supervisory authorities. Never-ending strikes have produced a drag on the Tunisian economy and have created a noticeable decline in the quality of services.
Recent rumors of strikes at Tunisia’s airports disrupting travel for returning Tunisians abroad during the Eid period have been proven by representatives at Djerba and Tunis Carthage airports to be untrue.