Tunisia: Government's chronic failure deepens public transport crisis and abuse of workers' rights

London- The Tunisian government must take immediate and concrete measures to end the crisis in the public-transport sector and grant workers the rights they have demanded for years, says ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies.

The London-based think tank investigated the call by Tunisian public transport workers for a general strike, which originally was scheduled for 15-16 September. The strike has been postponed to 9-10 November after the Ministry of Transport promised look into the demands of the workers from Tunisia’s two transport companies: Transtu (the state company in charge of public transport) and the Railways Works Company (SOTRAFER).

ImpACT International reviewed a letter from the Transtu workers addressed to the Ministry of Public Transport, warning of their strike and demanding that public health and safety in their worksites be ensured, field inspections be conducted and acute deficiencies in buses and metro vehicles be addressed. The workers also called for timely payment of wages and overtime compensation.

The accumulated crises of the public transport sector in Tunisia has once again inspired a call for the privatization of the industry. However, such voices were silenced by the Tunisian General Labor Union, the largest trade union in the country.

The public transport sector in Tunisia long has been in decline as equipment becomes outdated and dilapidated. There is no clear plan for ensuring the safety of passengers and workers, especially during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Public transport workers in Tunisia have suffered chronic funding shortages and excessive bureaucracy, leading to intermittent strikes over the years without achieving improvement.

The protests of public transport workers highlight the difficult reality of one of the country’s most troubled sectors, which is best by high debt and poor services. The state owns about 70% of the sector.

Transtu justifies its failure to update its fleet for 10 years by citing its difficult financial situation. However, that is no excuse for violating workers' rights, away from serious government oversight.

The accumulated crises of the public transport sector in Tunisia has once again inspired a call for the privatization of the industry. However, such voices were silenced by the Tunisian General Labor Union, the largest trade union in the country, reports ImpACT International.

The Tunisian government must take serious action to end the public transport crisis, particularly by protecting the rights of workers by requiring safety and preventive measures, allocating sufficient budget for the renewal of the bus fleet and rail equipment, and properly equipping inspection centers, road transport stations and related infrastructure.

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