Tunisia

Posted: 12/08/2011 in announcements

Tunisia: a police station in Gafsa (south) was set in fire today after a court acquitted Ali Syriati (the former head of the security forces under Ben Ali), sentenced members of the Trabilsi family and others related to Ben Ali to prison terms between 6 years and 4 months (!!!), and other similar events. Some Tunisian joke by saying that it will not be a surprise if Ben Ali himself will be “found not guilty.”

 

Tunisian journalists criticise government tactics

TUNISIA:

“Workers Have No Choice But to Strike”
[Note: Following is an interview conducted by Informations Ouvrières with Mr. Hacine El Abassi, Secretary General of the UGTT trade union federation of Tunisia, on the situation in Tunisia after the announcement of the postponement of the October 2011 elections to the Constituent Assembly.]

QUESTION: For the union leader that you are, what is your assessment of the political situation after the declaration of Prime Minister Caid Essebsi that the strikes and demonstrations must stop?

HACINE EL ABASSI: We would like nothing more than to end the strikes and demonstrations. But what else should workers do when their demands are not met and when businesses, or even the State, renege on signed agreements, as was the case with Tunis Air, where workers won the consolidation of all subsidiary businesses after the collapse of Tunis Air?

Judges, like the bailiffs, have been on strike for three days because the interim president of the republic has passed a law that violates their status. What should they do? End the strike because the prime minister has asked for it?

Despite all the negotiations and warnings that we have adopted to prevent the deterioration and worsening of the situation, the government continues down the same path.

As a result, workers — and it is their right — have no other choice to defend themselves but to declare a strike or protest. Another example: Agents and employees of the Monastir Airport have been on strike for six weeks to protect their jobs and their workplace; the airport. They are opposed to the Turkish company, which is operating Monastir Airport, like it operates the Enfidha Airport.

QUESTION: After the G8 meeting, attended by the Tunisian prime minister, it was made public that the IMF is lending $25 billion to the Tunisian government. The UGTT, during a meeting of its administrative commission, adopted a position calling for an end to the debt and one that questions repayment of some of that debt.

HACINE EL ABASSI: Indeed, the UGTT does not support payment of debt tainted by corruption. Therefore, a careful examination of all elements of the debt must be done so that Tunisia does not pay for the corruption. As for the loan incurred by the recent Caid Essebsi government, we say clearly that it is not the responsibility of a provisional government to tie up the future of the country and increase the burden of its debt.

It will be up to the government formed by the Constituent Assembly to apply the guidance in economic matters as dictated by the Constituent Assembly.

QUESTION: What is now the position of the UGTT concerning the Constituent Assembly?
HACINE EL ABASSI: The debate is open throughout the UGTT regarding the elections to the Constituent Assembly. The UGTT’s administrative commission will meet especially on this subject in July to adopt the position most likely to be the UGTT’s within the Constituent Assembly.
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TUNISIA: RECENT UPDATES

– June 21, 2011 protests at the Tataouine Regional Hospital against the firing of a doctor and a trade unionist. The local committee for the protection of the revolution has protested against these firings and those who are behind them, especially given the health situation that requires not only maintaining the doctor, but the recruitment of medical specialists.

– June 22 general strike at the Zarzis Regional Hospital, calling for the hiring of more health workers and adequate resources.

– Sit-in protest against the prime minister’s visit to Sfax for the opening of the International Fair. Hundreds of citizens gathered in Sfax at the entrance to the fair. They demanded the resignation of the prime minister with shouts of “No to shame! No to shame! After the revolution, there is colonization!,” Sovereignty is in the hands of the people,” “Cowards! Cowards, you are the servants of the United States!,” “Essebsi, agent of the United States and Israel!”

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ALGERIA:

“The Status Quo Benefits a Minority”
Editorial of “Fraternité,” No. 27, June 15-30, 2011
(Excerpts)

By LOUISA HANOUNE (*)

After his meeting with the government body tasked by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to conduct consultations on political reforms, Zohra Drif Bitat, vice president of the Algerian Senate, proposed to the president of the republic that a transitional government be appointed, charged with preparing elections; namely the election of a Constituent Assembly by Nov. 1, 2011 and early parliamentary elections before January 2012.

This is, indeed, the political solution capable of producing a real break with the one-party system and creating positive solutions to the social-revolutionary process that is underway in Algeria — a process of continued workers’ mobilizations in which workers in different sectors, organized by their unions, have been able to successfully impose their demands through strikes and negotiations.

Postal workers, for example, were able to win a 30 percent wage increase and a revision of their wage scale. The railway workers also waged strikes that succeeded in winning their demands. Meanwhile, dozens of strikes have taken place across the country, with popular mobilizations, to demand social housing and the improvement of living conditions.

Yes, a sovereign Constituent Assembly is the political solution. Solutions are needed. At this very moment, the resident doctors’ strike is in deadlock, and the midwives are threatening to strike because the health minister has turned his back on commitments made regarding a revised wage scale following negotiations with the midwives’ union. At the time, the secretary general of the National Union of Midwives (UGTA) had declared, “Victories wrested through struggle are revolutionary.”

And these contradictions are not only limited to the social sphere.

On the economic front, while reaffirming that the government will not back down on the 51/ 49 ownership rule, the Minister of Industry nonetheless ceded 100 percent of the Alver glass factory to the French Saint-Gobain corporation. …

Also, at the same time that the government has renegotiated the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) to delay the tariff schedule so as to protect domestic production, the president of the National People’s Assembly has proposed to convene in short order a special session of the parliament to advocate for membership of Algeria in the World Trade Organization.

It is very significant that the government denounced the drastic conditions that the EU and the U.S. government want to impose on our country for entry into the WTO. …

We now understand why the president of the National People’s Assembly and the general secretary of his party, both supporters of the status quo, oppose the election of a Sovereign Constituent Assembly. The status quo has served the interests of a minority, who have profited greatly from the plan of structural adjustment and the national tragedy.

Indeed, such a Sovereign Constituent Assembly, beyond including and codifying the nation’s social and democratic guarantees, would clearly establish in the Constitution the nation’s sovereignty over all political and economic matters.

A true political reform that would restore the voice to the people would not only block the road to electoral fraud, it would also highlight the slogan, “Where did you get that?” in such a way that the fortunes gained through embezzlement and the looting of the nation’s assets would be expropriated by the people.

(*) Louisa Hanoune is the president and spokesperson of the Workers Party of Algeria (PT). Fraternité is the biweekly newspaper published by the Workers Party of Algeria.

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EGYPT:
“There Have Been 12 Million Job Applications Presented to the Government since the Jan. 25 Revolution”

From Our Correspondent

The Egyptian government announced Saturday June 25 that it would not apply for loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. It must be said that in anticipation of repayment of these loans, in early June it presented a draft budget for 2011-2012 that provided for a reduction in public spending.

But the demands of Egyptian workers are more pressing than ever. Strikes and protests have been held for months in the private and public sectors. But the great powers do not intend to give up helping the army, which has held power since the fall of Mubarak.

They want to maintain the regime, defend the privatizations and not let go of the open market cap. The granting of billion of dollars in aid to Egypt by the G8 nations has no other purpose. Barack Obama announced May 9 the “conversion” of a billion dollars of Egyptian debt to the United States and the granting of loan guaranties for up to another billion dollars.

A delegation of elected officials led by U.S. Senators John Kerry (Democrat) and John McCain (Republican) and American business leaders, among them the CEO of General Electric, arrived in Cairo this weekend. They met with the president of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, the minister of finance and the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Egypt.

To explain his visit, John Kerry stated: “It is the right of American taxpayers to ensure that any assistance to foreign countries is properly used.” He added: “We are like the IMF and the World Bank when conducting business… they must show the money is being spent wisely.”

For his part, General Electric’s CEO, Jeff Immelt, said: “We do not need to be convinced of the business opportunities in Egypt. The question is how quickly.”

For American capital, time is short; it must get down to business.

To reduce the pressure on the state budget, the minister of finance announced June 14 that the government will not offer jobs to new graduates, but will attempt instead to provide more opportunities in the private sector and in civilian organizations. However, a law dating from the late 1960s requires the Egyptian state to provide employment for new graduates.

According to the ministry, “there were 12 million job applications to the government since the Jan. 25 revolution.”

The expectation of Egyptian workers is huge! The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces anticipated that Egyptians will elect new representatives in September, who will be responsible for drafting a new constitution.

The prime minister has spoken about the idea of postponing the vote to allow all political parties to organize themselves. But as we approach the deadline, a political issue has stirred the Egyptians political class, including all parties, coalitions and groups, without exception.

Some say that the new constitution should be drafted by a board of experts before the elections. Others, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are for keeping the timetable set out by the army: Elections first, writing the constitution afterward. The debate is in full swing; everyone has his opinion.
The newspapers devote pages and forums to the subject. Polls and surveys have followed. The online site of the daily Al Ahram revealed that 45.82 percent of the people are choosing another response, stating that: “The constitution should be drafted by a Constituent Assembly that reflects the aspirations of all sections of the nation.”
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Egypt: Continued Strikes in the Public Sector

* The Zagazig railway workers:

In Zagazig, a town north of Cairo, hundreds of railway workers went on strike last week. The army and security forces quickly ended it in the name of a “return to stability.” Railway workers are demanding payment of overtime and higher wages. Some hardly earn more than 500 pounds ($84) per month. The government in June raised the minimum wages of its employees to 700 pounds. It’s still 200 pounds below a minimum and is far from enough to raise a family.

* The officers and engineers of the state’s power stations:

Engineering salaries are so low and the number of hours they work so great that many of them take unpaid leave to work for companies in the Gulf countries.

Employees of the Egyptian state’s four main power stations have demonstrated several times since April for improved wages and to demand the resignation of some corrupt officials. In mid-June, fearing that the resistance would result in power outages, the army sent troops to the Oyoun Moussa power plant, which feeds the Sinai.

* Mansoura University Hospital:

500 Mansoura University Hospital caregivers demonstrated June 21 to get their premiums. Using the pretext of a lack of money, the director of the hospital refused. Five employees were brought before the military prosecutor and detained four days. The employees of the hospital organized a sit-in and demanded the release of their colleagues. The general independent union of health professionals threatened to extend the resistance throughout the health sector in the governorship. The military governor ended the situation by freeing the detained employees.

* The workers of the Suez Canal Authority: Twelfth day of the strike:

About 850 workers of two Suez Canal companies in the city of Ismailia intensified their resistance during the 12th day of the strike by demanding the resignation of the president of the Suez Canal, Ahmed Fadel.

Workers from five other companies have the same demands. On June 20, Suez and Ismailia workers blocked main roads. The workers requested the inclusion of 40 percent of premiums in the basic wage — which would have a significant impact on their meager pensions — a seven percent wage increase and an increase in the premium meal.

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Leaving Tunisia – People & Power – Al Jazeera English.

[A Dossier with Six Articles]

 The World Bank President’s Tunisian Visit:
“The Tunisian foreign debt is around $50 billion”

(article reprinted from Issue No. 147 (New Series), May 4, 2011, of Informations Ouvrières [Labor News], the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party [POI] of France)

A three-day visit to Tunisia, from May 2-4, will allow World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick “to determine in particular what help to bring to Tunisia during its political transition phase and how to carry out the economic reforms and governance that can create jobs and generate opportunities.”
This is how the World Bank press release presents the visit of its president to Tunisia before he goes to Morocco.

Apart from the Tunisian government, Mr. Zoellick “will meet with representatives of civil society in both countries to discuss with them the new importance attached to social responsibility and the role that civil society can play in helping citizens make their voices heard to reap the fruits of economic development and have access to better opportunities,” the press release states.

Nevertheless, the official Tunisian media did not trumpet the visit before the World Bank president landed in Tunisia. The March 18 mobilization against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the cancelation of her press conference probably forced the Tunisian government to remain quiet about the World Bank president’s visit.

This visit comes after Tunisia has paid, since the beginning of April, the sum of 450 million Euros – which represents the year’s highest debt maturity — and comes after the $500 million World Bank loan granted April 15.

Since Jan. 14, many voices have condemned this “odious debt” and have called for its cancelation, or, if not, its suspension. The cooperation between Tunisia and the World Bank goes back to 1963. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development had invested a cumulative total of $5.5 billion in Tunisia by the end of 2009. The Tunisian foreign debt is around $50 billion, two-thirds of which was generated by the state.

Since Jan. 14, the Tunisian provisional governments have all been unanimous in their commitment that Tunisia will pay its debt and borrow more!
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 General Strike in Monastir:

The workers and youth are in the process of gathering the issues that must be put on the agenda of the Constituent Assembly

(article reprinted from Issue No. 147 (New Series), May 4, 2011, of Informations Ouvrières [Labor News], the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party [POI] of France)

Since March 6, after the appointment of the prime minister, Caid Essebsi, the employees, agents and executives of the Monastir International Airport have mobilized to defend their work site, a strategic airport that has a capacity of a few million passengers per year.

Their efforts, supported by the UGTT trade union federation, led the transport union (aviation, bus, metro, taxi) to call for a strike to take place on April 29. The strike quickly spread to the cities of Sousse and Sfax. As a result, April 29 was no longer only a transit strike; it was the entire city of Monastir that was on strike. All workers’ categories joined the strike triggered by the transportation union (the schools and colleges, the banks, the Sonede, the water company, the Steg, the electricity and gas company, and all the businesses in the city).

“The strike was 100 percent successful,” stated Mouldi Jendoubi, executive board member of the UGTT.

For 55 days, the government had remained silent, relying on the deterioration of the situation and weariness of workers. It was only on April 29 that the governor responded to the protesters massed at the Municipal Building, to tell them … that the government is studying the situation.

But what is the situation?

It is a simple case of privatization of Monastir International Airport — that is to say, its concession to a Turkish company (TAV) – along with the concession to TAV of the new international airport of Enfidha, the future major hub of international air transport in the region. These are concessions framed by a loan from the World Bank for the construction of this new airport.

The demand expressed by the workers at Monastir International Airport was clearly put:

“Cancellation of the concession contracts and put the airport back under the supervision of the Office of Civil Aviation.”

The employees were joined by the entire population. The watchword of the entire city of Monastir was: “TAV clear out!”

Monastir’s general strike against privatization of the airport lays out a demand that is maturing within the working class: The nationalization of all enterprises privatized during the reign of Ben Ali. This, in turns, places on the agenda the need to repeal the “free trade” Association Agreement between Tunisia and the European Union, which opened the doors of the national economy to plunder.

It is the same question being asked by the Local Committee to Defend the Revolution of Metlaoui, which is demanding the nationalization of the Gafsa Phosphate Company.

The working class and the unemployed youth are in the process of gathering together all the issues and demands that must be on the agenda of the Constituent Assembly: The right to a job, the nationalization of the nation’s assets, the repeal of the Association Agreement with the European Union and any other agreement that undermines the sovereignty of Tunisia, the refusal to pay the debt of the Ben Ali regime (which did not benefit the people in any way), and the repayment of the sums plundered by Ben Ali and his allies.

The May 1 meeting of unemployed graduates has called for the recognition of work as a right and for the election of the unemployed to the Constituent Assembly.

One thing is certain: Caid Essebi’s government is trying every means to turn the tide of the revolution in order to dictate the course of the “transition” to democracy. It is backed by its European partners, the World Bank and the IMF. But the May 1 workers’ protest noted clearly, “Nothing has changed! It is the same theater, the same government.”

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UPDATED DOSSIER ON TUNISIA

[Note: The following four articles are reprinted from Issue No. 149 (New Series), May 18, 2011, of Informations Ouvrières (Labor News), the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party (POI])of France.]

Revolution and Counter-Revolution
Four months after Ben Ali took flight, the Tunisian people are convinced that their revolution is in danger. The three provisional governments, including that of current Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, are widely perceived by Tunisians as just a continuation of the Ben Ali era.

The authorities are trying to transform the Constituent Assembly elections into a show to reproduce the same system. The highest authority for carrying out the objectives of the revolution was coopted and integrated into the regime to eliminate the ones that form the neighborhood committees, as well as the local and regional committees for the protection of the revolution.

The RCD, the party of Ben Ali that was officially dissolved by court decision, is back, disguised as several smaller parties. The political police, officially dissolved as a result of the second sit-in at El Kasbah, is more active than ever. Torture, kidnapping, defamation and disinformation is being carried out to counter the rallies and demonstrations of workers and unemployed. The interim government is using all means to delegitimize the movement of the masses and to attack the UGTT trade union federation and union activists.

Self-defense committees, born recently in some cities, are still struggling to cope with organized gangs of corrupt police and thugs who terrorize the population. The blackmail the counter-revolutionary forces are forcing on the population isn’t only about security; it is also economic, orchestrated by the major powers and transnational corporations.

Essebsi has struggled to impose the sacred union behind his policies, with the support of the majority of the Tunisian political apparatus, and especially of the European Union and the United States.
Increasingly, the Tunisian people are convinced that the interim government and its highest authority to which the the objectives of the revolution are entrusted represent, in fact, the greatest counter-revolutionary threat.

Its security and police policies, however, have not been able to prevent the workers, the youth and the unemployed — those who caused Ben Ali’s downfall — from resuming what they began in December 2010. In Tunisia, the revolution is certainly in danger, but a revolutionary wind is blowing once again.

* * * * *
Declaration of the Metlaoui Local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution

The Metloui Local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution denounces:

- The arson of its local office, the sacking of its equipment and the theft of its records.

- The policy of deception adhered to by local authorities, which sanctifies the position of the illegitimate interim government in its relations with the local committees to protect the revolution.

- Rejects the deliberate silence of the imposed and illegitimate National Council to protect the revolution, which does not stand against the assaults on the local committees to protect the revolution or against what happened to the UGTT unions in Monastir and Siliana.

The local committee for the protection of the revolution demands:

- Securing local committees by local authorities.

- The establishment of a climate ensuring the freedom of movement and work and removing all obstacles that oppose that.

- The dissolution of the National Council for the protection of the revolution.

The local committee for the protection of the revolution calls for a national convention to be held, based on the local committees to protect the revolution, establishing a national council to protect the revolution, one that will be a strategic factor for all the decisions concerning the present and future of our country.

Metlaoui, May 15, 2011

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Founding Declaration of the Kef local committee for the protection of the revolution

We demand:

- Urgent solutions for the problem of unemployment (…).

- The use of the local offices of the RCD [the former ruling party — translator’s note] for local cultural and recreational activities for youth.

- Urgent support be given to small artisans and small farmers.

- Restitution of public property in the region that was looted.

- The independence of justice and the installation of financial and administrative courts in our region.

- The cleansing of administrations and channels of information of all symbols of the previous regime.

- The activation of the UGTT regionally in the cleansing of all careerists, while remaining committed to the unity and independence of the UGTT as a unique and legitimate representative of all Tunisian workers.

- We support the call for a national convention based on the local committees to protect the revolution.

The Founding Committee

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The Revolution on the Eve of a Second Stage

Tunisia: In response to threats against the revolution, the UGTT trade union federation and the defense committees of the revolution express the views of youth, workers and peasants.

Declaration of the Administrative Commission of the UGTT:

Following the attacks and the brutal repression that victimized the citizens and all of the successive attacks that have targeted various institutions and agencies, and the attempts to stir up trouble to create a climate of doubt about the progress of the revolution and to impede the march to democracy (…), the May 11 UGTT administrative committee meeting:

1) Strongly denounces the attacks against the UGTT at the local, regional and national levels, and the violence that targets trade unionists in many regions. That particularly includes Comrade Said Youssef, Secretary General of the Regional Union of Monastir, as well as the smear campaigns that seek to accuse peers in other regions, as is the case in Siliana.

2) Remains committed to the right of citizens and of all the people to demonstrate and protest against the the savage violence exercised against the people. This had as a consequence the death of a citizen who opposed the destruction of public assets, operations which remind us of old practices against which we continue to fight. The Administrative Committee protests the attack and destruction of public and private property and against attempts undertaken by organized groups, whose interests are completely linked to the regime of the deposed president and the dissolved RCD (…).

4) Warns against making the accusation of betrayal against all those who have a different perspective on the general situation of the country, the nation’s future prospects or on the question of postponement of Constituent Assembly elections. The Administrative Commission calls for the establishment of a healthy social climate that respects the freedom of expression and opinion.

5) Affirms its commitment to the independence of choice and union direction (…), as it affirms its commitment to defend a society that strengthens the rights of women, which respects freedom of belief and separation of religion and politics – on the grounds that mosques are only places of worship. The Administrative Commission has stated its commitment to build a democratic society that strengthens the social gains and whose language is Arabic and whose religion is Islam (…).

14) As much as it rejects any form of foreign intervention in Arab affairs, it also expresses its solidarity with the people’s revolutions in Libya, Yemen and Syria and denounces the killing operations undertaken by the repressive regimes in power in opposing demonstrations for freedom, democracy and human rights.
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Eyewitness Tunisia

Posted: 21/04/2011 in Uncategorized

Eyewitness Tunisia – Labour Briefing May 2011

Tunisia Solidarity Campaign will be joining the 26 of March rally and march in London. Meeting point: 11:00 am Victoria Embankment central London.

See you there!

Gafsa, Tunisia

Posted: 11/03/2011 in Uncategorized

Revolt lingers in central Tunisia

Tunisia update

Posted: 08/03/2011 in Uncategorized

07 March 2011 Aljazeera.net reported that the interim government led by Foued Almobaza and Al-Baji Qaid Essebssi formed a new government. The 22 ministers of the new government are all technorats and none of those who worked with Ben Ali or after his downfall.

The ministry of Interior announced the dissolution of the State Security apparatus, known in Tunisia as the political police.

On the 4 March the interim president had announced the organistion of election for a national constituent assembly on 24 July of this year.

Event in London

Posted: 04/03/2011 in Uncategorized

Making another world possible – 05 March 2011