Tunisia: BWI calls for unconditional release of union leader

(Photo: Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency)

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) called for the unconditional release of Tunisian trade union leader Anis Kaabi who was arrested on 1 February 2023 over a strike by toll booth workers. 

According to reports, Kaabi, who is the General Secretary of the highways branch of the one million-strong Tunisian General Labour Union  (UGTT), was arrested and detained after the Tunisian government claimed that the strike is costing the state huge financial losses. 

The UGTT said that the strike of the highway union, wherein workers refused to collect toll fees to press for their wage demands, was lawful.

BWI said that it fully supports the UGTT, particularly its call for workers to mobilise to defend trade union rights, and public and individual freedoms in Tunisia.

Kaabi’s arrest came at a time when Tunisia’s democratic space and trade union rights are rapidly shrinking. It is a slap in the face of the Tunisian workers’ right to strike, and a violation of trade union rights guaranteed by the country’s Labour Act, as well as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 87 on freedom of association, which it said was ratified by Tunisia,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. 

“Together with the Tunisian working people, we deplore the attacks on their trade union rights and personal freedoms. We add our voice in calling on the Tunisian government to respect workers’ rights, and immediately and unconditionally release Anis Kaabi,” Yuson said.