Tunisia’s southern Tozeur region ground to a halt on Wednesday, as the latest in a growing number of strikes around the country was called to protest a lack of development.
“This movement is taking place because the authorities have ignored our demands,” the UGTT trade union confederation’s regional chief, Haroun Bouagga, told AFP.
“If the authorities do not reply to us or begin a dialogue, we will adopt more intense forms of protest,” he warned.
The strike organisers, who include the Utica bosses’ organisation as well as the UGTT, estimated that 98 percent of public offices, shops and businesses observed the strike in Tozeur, some 450 kilometres (280 miles) southwest of Tunis.
Several thousand people protested in the town, shouting slogans against the Islamist Ennahda party and the coalition government it leads.
The UGTT and Utica are demanding state aid to develop the tourism and agriculture sectors, the two main employers in the oasis town, which lies on the edge of the desert, not far from the Algerian border.
Tunisia’s tourism industry has taken a battering since the overthrow of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali nearly three years ago, as the transition has run into trouble and jihadist-related violence has surged.
Poverty and the underdevelopment were driving forces behind the protests that toppled Ben Ali and inspired similar uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
Last week, strikes were observed in three other regions of Tunisia that complain of neglect by the central government, sparking bloody clashes with police in two of them.