Nobel Peace Prize against backdrop of severe social and economic crisis: On 9 October, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Tunisian "Quartet", which was set up on the initiative of the UGTT, alongside the Union Tunisienne de l'Industrie, du Commerce et de l'Artisanat (UTICA), the Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l'Homme (LTDH) and the Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie. Together, these four organisations were rewarded for negotiating the country's transition to democracy and the adoption of a Constitution based on fundamental human rights, as well as for their role in preventing the bloody confrontations that befell other countries during the course of the Arab Spring. The country was in a deadlock in 2013 when the four organisations launched this celebrated "national dialogue".

But the struggle is not over yet. A 2015 report on social dialogue in Tunisia sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation established an inventory of the obstacles to be overcome to allow for far reaching reform. In its conclusions, it stressed the need for education and training to be adapted to the existing productive system and for improved governance of public and private institutions.

The country is in the throes of a severe economic crisis. Tourism, one of the pillars of the economy, is in shambles as a result of terrorism. Since the Revolution, purchasing power is reported to have fallen by 40 per cent in four years, and the number of people living in poverty is reported to have risen by 30 per cent. The unions are demanding increased wages, and protests and strike actions are on the rise. A few days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, an important meeting on the resumption of social dialogue was cancelled due to the absence of the employers' organisation UTICA. The UGTT has been the target of violent attacks in the media. In response, it stressed the importance of uniting national efforts, each according to their abilities, while refusing that workers be made to bear the full brunt of the repercussions of the crisis.

Journalists faced with precarious employment and threats: In addition to threats against the freedom of the press, the Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT) fought an uphill battle defending its members against their employers. Scores of journalists were arbitrarily dismissed in 2015. According to the SNJT, journalists are faced with high levels of job insecurity, not to mention the repression and other dangers they encounter. Nearly three quarters of journalists in the written press are not covered by collective agreements and do not have a clear employment contract.

Oppressive antiterrorist decree: Following the terrorist attack in Sousse, on 4 July, the Tunisian president imposed a state of emergency for one month. Human rights organisations and the UGTT feared that the decree could entail further restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, as well as on trade union rights, as it would allow the executive to impose bans on strikes or protest actions considered a threat to public order and to prohibit any meeting likely to incite or harbour unrest. At the end of July, the state of emergency was extended by two months. In the meantime, the Parliament adopted a new antiterrorist law that has been criticised by civil society as it could lead to further curbs on freedoms.

In this context of heightened security, on 1st September in Tunis, security forces brutally attacked protestors, including at the UGTT headquarters. The demonstrators were violently dispersed. Some were beaten up, others arrested, including Lasaad Yakoubi, general secretary of the secondary school teachers' union Union des Ecoles Secondaires, and Nejib Sellami from the UGTT. Both leaders were released after being detained for an hour at a police station. The demonstrators were protesting against a bill on economic and financial reconciliation that would grant amnesty to business people who profited from Ben Ali's regime. The draft legislation has been condemned by the UGTT. The worst incidences of police brutality took place in Sfax on 6 September. The state of emergency was lifted on 2 October and then re-established on 24 November following a new attack in Tunis in which 12 officers of the presidential guard were killed. In Tunis and the neighbouring areas, the measure was accompanied by a curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

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