Tunisia: for the better protection of workers’ rights

25 February 2013

Tunis – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) has launched its first project to ensure the economic and social rights of marginalised groups in Tunisia. Despite the Arab Spring of 2010-2011, the living conditions of these groups remain difficult. In partnership with the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, ASF aims, among other things, to improve the working conditions of people employed in the textile and mining sectors.

Two years after the regime change, Tunisia is still struggling to respond to the economic and social problems that formed the basis of the revolt that led to Ben Ali’s overthrow. Tunisian society is facing structural unemployment (18%), a lack of transparency in the public sector recruitment process, and precarious working conditions.

“This situation directly affects the lives and rights of Tunisians. A peaceful transition to democracy could be threatened if nothing is done to express the frustrations and exclusions within a legal framework”, says Solène Rougeaux, ASF Head of Mission in Tunis.

Monument of martyrs, mining basin Redeyef © ASF/ S. Rougeaux

Monument of martyrs, mining basin Redeyef © ASF/ S. Rougeaux

However, these injustices are not inevitable. “We are supporting the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (FTDES) to develop advocacy actions based on a human rights approach, that is to say by focusing on who is responsible for what”, explains Shira Stanton, ASF Expert in Economic and Social Rights. “The FTDES will put pressure on State authorities to ensure, for example, that factories comply with the legislation on minimum wages, contribute to the social security system, and ensure safe working conditions.”

Funded by the European Union, the ASF project will last 18 months. “We will organise trainings and monitoring in the form of coaching for lawyers, human rights activists and FTDES employees”, explains Hakima Ghorri, Project Coordinator. “In the regions targeted, such as Monastir and the mining basin region of Gafsa, we will support active civil society organisations to collectively negotiate and protect the rights of vulnerable groups.”

Some 1,500 people in vulnerable  situations will benefit from the project: textile workers, victims of corruption, precarious workers, unemployed youth and the disadvantaged.

“Under the Ben Ali regime, we lived too long without being heard by the authorities,” says Jihen Hmida, a representative of the FTDES in Redeyef. “We hope that with the support of ASF, we can finally ensure respect of the most fundamental economic and social rights of our citizens.”

For more info on ASF in Tunisia

Featured image: mining basin region of Gafsa © ASF/ S. Rougeaux

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