Tunisian police protest low wages

Published January 25th, 2016 - 07:30 GMT

In the latest challenge to Prime Minister Habib Essid's government, several thousand Tunisian police have staged a massive rally to demand a pay rise and better working condition.

Police in civilian clothes marched to the presidential palace and chanted slogans in Carthage on the outskirts of the capital Tunis on Monday.

"We are defending our homeland but also our rights," and "Our accounts are in the red," chanted angry protesters.   

Riadh Rezgui, a spokesman for Tunisia's domestic security services' union, said that the demonstration was organized "after the failure of negotiations with the government on salary increases."

The police officers' union has said that salary and wages have not kept pace with inflation.

Tunisian government sources say the cost of the pay increases demanded by police would amount to one $480,000.

Also on Monday, there were further demonstrations across several regions, including the western city of Kasserine, the southern city of Gafsa and the northern town of Beja.

Unemployed youths and Job seekers also staged a fresh protest in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the 2011 popular uprisings. Police used tear gas to disperse angry protesters in the troubled town. 

Senior authorities in Tunis have appealed for patience after protests against unemployment rocked several major cities and towns last week.

Tunisia imposed a nationwide curfew on Friday after riots erupted in Kasserine, where banks and businesses were reportedly looted. Violence was reported in the capital, Tunis, on the same day. The Interior Ministry said dozens of people were arrested for damaging property or theft.

The unrest was triggered on January 17, when a young man who had reportedly been sacked from his government job protested by climbing a transmission tower and was electrocuted.

Premier Essid cut short a visit to France on Friday to deal with the growing protests.

Senior Tunisian officials have acknowledged that the North African country has been grappling with a weak economy which has been aggravated by terror threats.

A series of militant attacks have devastated the Tunisian tourism industry in recent months.

Tourists now avoid traveling to Tunisia over fears of further militant attacks targeting foreigners, in a move that has dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s struggling economy at a time when it is grappling with a high unemployment rate.

The latest rioting and protests are seen as the worst social unrest in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. That sparked a wave of uprisings, called the Islamic Awakening, in other Arab countries against authoritarian rulers.

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