Temporary workers in Tunisia: Cabinets come and go, rights still elusive
Karem Yehia in Tunisia, Saturday 25 Oct 2014
Temporary workers in Tunisia protest for full employment and benefits, but receive little sympathy on the street, or attention from the government or the media


When the unemployed Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid in late 2010, he sparked the revolution in Tunisia that spread across the Arab world.

In its aftermath, the Tunisian government resorted to bolstering temporary employment. Currently, four years later, tens of temporary workers — referred to as " dispensable workers" — stand in front of the government headquarters in Al-Qasba demanding rights of full employment, social security and fair pay.

However, it seems their demands are not being heard.

For over an hour, no government official addressed the workers who kept chanting "Work, freedom, national dignity!"

Abdel Baset Ayadi, 39, has worked as service worker for more than three years and receives 250 Tunisian dinars monthly (around $135). Ayadi said that at the beginning of the protests, he and his colleagues used to receive promises. They turned out to be empty. Now they don’t receive any attention, even from the media.

The protestors, women and men, vary in educational and social standards. Anisa Agami, a 35-year-old computer programmer, estimated the number of temporary workers in different governmental sectors to be around 74,000.

Agami remarked that the protestors filed many complaints to the government with no response. "Governments alternate, our concerns remain," she said. Tunisia has witnessed five governments since the fall of the Ben Ali regime on 14 January 2011.

Agami, who has two children and is currently pregnant, receives 250 Tunisian Dinars. Her employment situation does not allow her full maternity leave or childcare.

Asking the protesters about parliamentary elections planned for Sunday, the workers are divided between those who intend to boycott and those who plan to participate in the hope that someone takes up their case in the upcoming parliament.

One of the protesters is Selim El-Rayahi, 41, who works in the culture ministry, "We are the ones who pay the price. Whoever wants a position uses us and when they reach the position, they don’t care."

He added: "This is what happened in the constitutive assembly elections three years ago."

"Do they want us to set ourselves on fire, like the martyr Bouazizi?" he asked.

When Ahram Online asked the opinion of a passer-by who looked surprised at the protests, he replied: "During Ben Ali's time, such protests would not have been possible. These people would never have been able to stand here and protest in front of the government headquarters."

"In fact, maybe these people are luckier than those who can't find a job," he added.

Unemployment estimates in Tunisia vary between 15 and 20 percent.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/113920.aspx