Tensions between lawyers and the unity government have culminated in plans to commence a general strike.
L’orde National des Avocats (The National Association of Tunisian Lawyers) issued an official statement on Tuesday, inviting all lawyers to participate in a national strike on Friday, October 21. The announcement comes as a response to the release of the unity government’s proposed 2017 budget, which members of the law association claimed presents a heavy tax burden on attorneys, and followed a breakdown of negotiations between the union and the government.
“The National Association of Lawyers is surprised by the government’s proposed budget,” the official statement read, “It includes unfair measures and heavy economic burdens on citizens, especially lawyers, paving the way for social unrest throughout the country.
“(The budget) would contribute to the impoverishment of weak social classes and attacks principles of equality and neutrality.”
The text goes on to both criticize the law and urge regional law associations to collaborate with political parties and non-governmental organizations to fight the proposal. It also denounces the budget as both “unconstitutional” and contrary to the state’s national interest.
Head of the Council of the National Association of Lawyers Mr. Amer Mehrerzi went a step further, referring to the draft budget as a “disfigured newborn” in a radio broadcast for Mosaique FM.
While Mehrerzi acknowledged that the prime minister was “under enormous pressure” to increase revenue, he questioned why the government continually centers its efforts to extract taxes from lawyers, as opposed to other professional bodies such as doctors.
Lawyer and member of L’ordre National des Avocats Ines Jaibi expanded on why tax regulations present a unique challenge for lawyers.
“While drafting the new budget law, the government did not take into specific consideration the job of a lawyer,” Jaibi said to Tunisia Live.
“Lawyers are not always paid on time by their clients. Consequently, they cannot always afford to pay regular taxes.”
This is especially true in cases of young professionals like her, she added, where extensive taxation can present an undue burden to entering the field.
The National Association of Lawyers is comprised of over 8,000 members, all of whom are invited to participate in the strike.