Tunisia expels Irish trade union representative after demonstration

TUNIS, Tunisia: Following her participating in a demonstration against the Tunisian government’s crackdown on trade unions and workers’ rights, the Irish woman who leads Europe’s major trade union confederation was ordered to leave the country.

Esther Lynch, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, flew back to Brussels this weekend after being expelled by the Tunisian government.

The European Trade Union Confederation earlier announced that Lynch entered Tunisia as part of a delegation of international union leaders, in a bid to show support of the Tunisian General Labour Union, whose members claim to have been targeted for harassment by the country’s government.

Prior to a protest demonstration in the city of Sfax, Lynch met the general secretary of Tunisia’s General Labour Union union, Noureddine Taboubi.

Following the protest, Tunisian President Kais Saied wrote on his website that Lynch had broken the law by threatening the security of the country.

Lynch was given 24 hours to leave the country and ordered to report to the authorities about her activities, and about anyone whom she spoke to, prior to departing.

"These authoritarian tactics being used against trade unionists and civil society activists, which I experienced at first-hand this weekend, have no place in a democratic country. I call again on President Saied to respect democratic rights and end his attacks on trade unionists. Far from silencing me, my treatment this weekend has strengthened my resolve to stand with trade unions in Tunisia and I will raise their treatment at the highest levels of the EU," said Lynch in a statement, as reported by thee Irish Times.

"We have called on both the French and UK governments to resolve disputes through negotiations with trade unions, rather than by attacks on them and that is exactly what my message is to the Tunisian government."