ITUC-Africa Protests against the Unjust Decision to Withhold Teacher’s Salaries and Expel Directors and calls for genuine dialogue to resolve the industrial impasse.

Keywords : Human and trade union rights Protest letters Extending Social Protection Tunisia

Your Excellency Prime Minister,
The African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa conveys its warm courtesies and writes to express its deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent actions taken by the Ministry of Education, withholding the salaries of 17,000 teachers and expelling 350 directors in response to their participation in a legally approved strike.

ITUC-Africa stands in full support of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) as they raise their voice against this peace-alienating and undemocratic act, which gravely undermines the fundamental right to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, as enshrined in national and international principles and instruments.

Besides, these reprisal decisions by the education minister are naked provocation, which may escalate the crisis now or in the future with glaring negative consequences for learners in the affected schools. High-handed actions such as these are not advisable in resolving an industrial dispute, especially one created by the failure of the employer, which in this case is government, to amicably tame the crisis before it snowballed into a strike.

The Tunisian Constitution, in Article 37, unequivocally asserts that "Trade unions may be freely constituted. They must defend the interests of the categories of workers or employees they represent." The act of withholding salaries and banishing educators for exercising their legitimate right to collective bargaining and peaceful assembly glaringly betrays the democratic principles and labour rights that the Tunisian government is supposed to uphold.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has steadfastly championed freedom of association and collective bargaining as inalienable rights for workers worldwide. As a member state of the ILO, Tunisia is legally obligated to uphold these cardinal principles. The actions taken by the Ministry of Education directly violate the following ILO conventions and recommendations:

1. ILO Convention No. 87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
2. ILO Convention No. 98 - Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining
3. ILO Convention No. 135 - Workers’ Representatives
4. ILO Recommendation No. 143 - Workers’ Representatives

By denying teachers and directors the right to collectively negotiate and express their grievances through lawful withdrawal of labour, the Tunisian government has disregarded its international commitments to uphold workers’ rights and fundamental freedoms.

Furthermore, this reprehensible conduct by the Tunisian government is in flagrant violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 10 of the Charter enshrines the right to freedom of association, stating that "Every individual shall have the right to free association provided that he abides by the law." By unjustly punishing teachers and directors for exercising their right to peaceful protest and association, your government has egregiously violated the very principles of human rights that the Charter seeks to protect and undermines the broader values of justice, equity, and dignity for all workers.

We therefore urge the Government of Tunisia to reconsider its wrongful and disproportionate decision without further delay and engage in meaningful and genuine social dialogue with the striking workers and the UGTT to address the real and related concerns raised by teachers and directors regarding their working and living conditions. Failure to do so would inevitably expose the Tunisian government as an egregious violator of its constitutional obligations, the ILO conventions, and the African Freedom Charter.

A democratic society flourishes when the rights and liberties of its citizens, especially its workers, are fiercely safeguarded. The entire global community is watching, and history will hold the Tunisian government accountable for its actions against its people.

Madam Prime Minister, ITUC-Africa fervently implores you to use your good offices and goodwill to rectify this grave injustice and demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to upholding the principles of democracy and workers’ rights in Tunisia.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent and pressing matter, and we call on you to give due consideration to the weighty concerns raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah
General secretary

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