Tunisian union demands reinstatement of dismissed Mondelez union leader

15.08.13 Feature
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Strange things happen at the SOTUBI factory in Tunis, Tunisia's largest manufacturer of biscuits of which Mondelez owns 49%. In January 2011, with the country in a state of insurrection, workers took responsibility for protecting the factory, their source of livelihood.

For ten days, the general secretary of the FGAT-UGTT branch union, Zied Naloufi, among other union representatives, guarded and even slept in the factory as a precaution against looters. This was at a time when many employers had their bags packed.

Following the flight of deposed dictator Ben Ali - father-in-law to SOTUBI's owner - workers succeeded in negotiating solutions to many long-standing grievances, including the regularization of hundreds of agency workers doing production work at wages far below those of direct employees.

Then came the backlash, as employers sensed that the democratic tide was ebbing.

The general secretary was dismissed on July 10 last year, after holding a membership meeting during a production stoppage. He was falsely accused of causing the stoppage. Many workers testified that it was the result of a power failure. Their testimony was ignored.

One month later, assistant general secretary Karim Amdouni was suspended, falsely accused of assaulting a colleague. Two weeks later, the alleged victim of the assault withdrew his internal company complaint. The next day he was accused by the company of assaulting Amdouni! It nevertheless took more than six months after the one-month suspension period for the union to get Karim Amdouni back to work - but not at his former job.

The union was encouraged to believe that if the remaining leaders resigned and a new leadership elected, it would be easier to negotiate a return to work for the dismissed and suspended colleagues. The union reluctantly agreed to this, and a new leadership was elected, which continued to demand reinstatement.

Karim Amdouni finally resumed work on April 1, 2013. Over one year after his unjust dismissal, Zied Naloufi is still awaiting his return to work - and the union continues to demand his reinstatement.

SOTUBI workers, their union and the FGAT-UGTT rally in support of Zied Naloufi on July 20. The banner reads, "The union and the workers stand together and insist on the reinstatement of the ex-general secretary"