Tunisia Expel Top European Trade Union Official

Tunisia Expel Top European Trade Union Official (News Central TV)

Tunisian President Kais Saied has ordered Europe’s top trade union official to leave the country after she addressed protesters at a demonstration organised by a powerful labour union.

Authorities charged Esther Lynch, the Irish general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, with interfering with Tunisian internal affairs during a protest against Saied in the port city of Sfax on Saturday.

Tunisia Expel Top European Trade Union Official (News Central TV)

The General Labor Union of Tunisia, or UGTT, organised the protest to protest a crackdown on the president’s political opponents and critics in the media, judiciary, business community, and trade unions.

Lynch demanded the release of union leader Anis Kaabi, who was arrested by security, in an address to protesters.

She urged the Tunisian government to negotiate with the UGTT leadership and to improve the economy, which has been bordering on the verge of collapse due to political instability largely caused by a parliamentary election last month in which only 11% of voters cast ballots.

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“By orders of the president, Tunisian authorities ordered Esther Lynch to leave the country within 24 hours, following statements made during the UGTT-led demonstration that interfered with Tunisian internal affairs,” said a statement by the Tunisian presidency that was posted on Twitter.

Lynch left Tunisia on Sunday, according to the European Trade Union Confederation (or ETUC). The Tunisian authorities’ treatment of Lynch “is in line with the campaign of intimidation and harassment being waged against trade unions by President Kais Saied,” including “arrests, sacking of union officials (and) malicious lawsuits,” the ETUC said in a statement.

“These tactics are part of a campaign by President Saied to break the union’s resistance to policies which are making ordinary people pay for the country’s economic, social and constitutional crisis,” said the statement.

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Saied was elected president in 2019 on the promise of improving the country’s economy. Instead, the president appears intent on upending the country’s political system and endangering a democracy that was once regarded as a model for the Arab world.

The International Monetary Fund froze a $1.9 billion loan agreement with Tunisia in December. The funds are needed to pay UGTT-represented public sector salaries and to close budget gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Tunisians have recently faced rising food prices as well as shortages of fuel and basic necessities such as sugar and vegetable oil.

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