VENTURES AFRICA – Four towns in Tunisia, which is the birthplace of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring, embarked on a general strike on Wednesday, protesting widespread joblessness in the main phosphate-producing regions.
Hundreds of Tunisians marched on the streets of Metlaoui, Om Lrayes, Mdhila and Redayef in the North African country’s southern “mining basin”, according to Reuters. In addition, most shops and public establishments were locked during the day with no workers in sight, witnesses said.
These strikes have become the main problem to the state’s bid to resuscitate the near-moribund economy almost five years after the 2011 uprising which deposed dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisia’s state-run firm, Gafsa Phosphate, has by this time put on hold production after protests by youthful workers which stopped deliveries earlier this month. “The strike in Redayef and other towns is to draw attention to the bad conditions in the region, the unemployment, despite the phosphate riches there,” a union leader Ali Jdidi, told Reuters. “People want jobs more than anything.”
Latest figures show industrial activity in Tunisia slipped markedly early this year with the economic growth slowing down to 1.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter.