The Tunisian trade union is ‘no longer accepting’ the president’s agenda’

The UGTT has demonstrated its ability to shut down the economy by shutting down airports, public transportation, ports, and government offices with strikes.


Tunisia’s powerful labor union has issued its boldest challenge yet to President Kais Saied, rejecting his political and economic programs and insisting that it would defend democracy against what it described as a threat.


Noureddine Taboubi, head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), declared Saturday that the group no longer endorses the existing route because of its ambiguity and the risky consequences it may have for the country and democracy.


“No matter what the price, we will defend rights and freedoms,” he said.


Last year, Saied closed down the parliament and used decree power to write a new constitution, which was ratified in a referendum that had a low turnout, establishing a new, weakened parliament.


Saved has claimed that his actions were necessary to save Tunisia, to prevent the president from establishing a dynasty and turning the country into a family business.


Political parties are refusing to participate in the December 17 parliamentary vote, citing flaws in the procedures President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has imposed, including putting the electoral commission under his control.


Human Rights Watch, a United States-based group, said other electoral changes, such as eliminating campaign funding, would make it hard for women to be elected.


Colour and flavor are lacking in the vote, according to Taboubi, and the constitution doesn’t have a national consensus.


The one-million-member union has previously refrained from openly opposing the president’s agenda, except for a strike in the middle of the year over wages and spending cuts. It repeatedly voiced concern, however, about the president’s policies.


Saved recently angered the UGTT by proposing subsidy cuts and the restructuring of state-owned firms, in a push for an IMF bailout to avert national bankruptcy.


The union recently called for a general strike in the Sfax region after a demonstrator died from inhaling tear gas used to disperse protests against the reopening of a landfill site.


It insisted that those responsible be held accountable.


The UGTT has been able to immobilize the economy through strikes that shut down airports, public transportation, ports, and government offices.

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