Today, trade unionists in Tunisia called a general strike as part of a day of mourning for opposition leader Chokri Belaid, assassinated by Islamists as he left his home on Tuesday 6 February. Tens of thousands of his supporters turned out as part of the funeral in Tunis, and the general strike has led to severe disruption of transport and other parts of the economy.
The UGTT – our sister organisation in Tunisia – have pinned the blame squarely on the Islamist government of the ruling Ennahda party, for “the resurgence of the phenomenon of political and social violence,” and for protecting and not pursuing those committing this and previous crimes, including the attacks on the UGTT headquarters in December. As well as calling a peaceful general strike today, they have also called for 6 February to be observed annually as “a national day of rejection of political violence.”
With support from the ETUC and ITUC (the letter of solidarity reproduced below from TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady was sent earlier today), the Tunisian trade union movement is struggling against a rising tide of Islamist attacks on secular forces in Tunisia, obscuring the legitimate complaints of the trade unions about how the Tunisian revolution in which they played a leading role has not delivered economic growth or jobs for ordinary Tunisians.
With the World Social Forum descending on Tunis at the end of March (including trade union delegations from around the Mediterranean as well as Belgium and the UK), solidarity with our Tunisian colleagues is more pressing than ever.
Dear Comrade Abassi,
The Trades Union Congress sends a message of support to you, members of the UGTT and the Tunisian people for the general strike called today in reaction to the brutal assassination of Chokri Belaid.
Chokri Belaid was undoubtably a man of great courage who fought and ultimately died in the defence of human rights and democracy, and will remain forever in the hearts of the Tunisian people.
The UGTT is again in the forefront of the struggle for democracy, equality and the transition to a fully democratic Tunisia.
The Trades Union Congress stands with you in that fight, and calls on all sections of Tunisian society to fulfil the ambitions of Chokri Belaid, to build a free, prosperous and democratic Tunisia for all its citizens.
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary