Tunisia:Powerful Union to elect new chief

Tunisia’s General Labor Union (UGTT) has opened a key annual congress to debate its strategy and pick a new chief.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning UGTT, known to many Tunisians for the role it played in the country’s historic revolution of 2011, convened the meeting on Sunday to replace Houcine Abassi, who took office just months after the fall of former strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Some 500 delegates, representing more than half a million members of the labor union, attended the congress. Abassi’s deputies Bouali Mbarki and Noureddine Taboubi were highly favored to fill the union’s leadership role. During the meeting, the 69-year-old Abassi called on his successor to “continue on the same path of militancy.”

The UGTT has been a major force in Tunisia’s post-revolution transition, a rare success story which inspired many in the Arab world. The activist group played an important part in a 2013 national dialogue that many described as Tunisia’s way out of a potentially serious crisis. The UGTT won the joint award for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

Some former members of the union are currently serving in the cabinet of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. However, the union has never ceased its activism on labor rights issues in Tunisia. A decision to freeze wages of the public sector employees in autumn prompted the UGTT to threaten the government with a nationwide strike.

By Africafrique and agencies

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