The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) held this morning a press conference at its headquarters to state the terms they agreed on with the government in cancelling today’s nationwide strike.
Following two meetings this week between UGTT representatives and the government, four terms were reached.
First, the government reaffirmed the right to political, civil, and unionist activism, its exclusive responsibility in protecting such activities, and its condemnation of all forms of violence regardless of their motives or perpetrators. The government and the UGTT, secondly, expressed their commitment to continue addressing all problems revealed during the dialogue. Thirdly, the government expressed its condemnation of the attack on the UGTT and its members and staff on December 4.
For UGTT Secretary General Houcine Abbassi, the fourth term was the most critical in the two sides reaching a final agreement. The formation of a joint committee, including members of both the government and the UGTT, will investigate the violence, which took place in Mohamed Ali square on December 4 – particularly the alleged role of certain members of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. The composition of the committee is to be agreed upon by the two parties and formed within 10 days so that it can complete its mission within one month of its establishment. Its report will be submitted to the Prime Minister to take the necessary measures.
Abbassi devoted much time to justify the strike’s cancellation, citing that it was taken in the national interest.
“The country can no longer bear further violent attacks and acts of vandalism, especially during such critical periods of time, which are characterized by the danger of terrorism,” said Abbassi, worried that the general strike would provoke more violent acts.
“We have decided to cancel the general strike to calm and pacify the fraught situation,” he continued.
As for the original reasons of holding a general strike, Abbassi explained, “The executive body took such a decision as a reaction towards several attacks that targeted the UGTT couple of months ago… The last event [December 4] was not the first attack against unionists or our offices. The UGTT has been target to a series of attacks that were systematic and arranged.”
The regional headquarters of the UGTT in Jendouba as well as its local offices in Ben Guerdane, Bou Salem, and Menzel Bouzelfa were all attacked, and some even set on fire, Abbassi pointed out.
“The decision [to hold a general strike] was not hasty. It was legal, and it was taken after a lot of negotiations and discussion among members of the UGTT’s executive body,” concluded the secretary general.