Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets of the capital Tunis for International Labor Day on Tuesday, supported by the Islamist Ennahda party which won the majority of seats in parliament in last year’s elections.
Ennahda encouraged Tunisians to take part in protests to spotlight the role labor unions played in the country’s revolution which successfully ousted former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The Tunisian interior ministry approved two May Day protests in the capital, one by the General Labor Union (UGTT) on Avenue Habib Bourguiba and one by the Worker’s Union (UTT) on Mohamed V Avenue.
“The working conditions in factories, companies and administrations are miserable because nothing has changed,” said Amna Aouadi, from the UGTT.
The economy continues to suffer, sixteen months after the revolution began. Investment and the tourism industry are staggering, and the government’s goal of 4.5% economic growth is seemingly overly ambitious.
Fadhel Garsalli says he has been working for 15 years and says that both his working and living standards are poor.
Unemployment on the other hand has increased from 13 percent last year, to 18 percent, and is significantly higher amongst the youth.
Over to the Lebanese capital of Beirut, hundreds walked from Riad el Sohl Square in the city center to the Prime Minister's building demanding better wages to meet rising costs and consequential dwindling living standards.
“We are asking for the rights of each Lebanese citizen, expatriate or local, to live in dignity in our country. My country was liberated, but the human within is still not liberated. Everyone should be free in his country, to have the right to be educated, to have medical care and to have the right to live as human beings,” said Hussein Fakih.
Lebanon is currently dealing with a massive debt equivalent to 180 percent of the gross domestic product.