Over two thousand members of the Union of Internal Security Forces (SNFSI-Syndicat National des Forces de Securite Interieure) protested in front of Prime Minister Habib Essid’s Kasbah Office in Tunis for a second day on Friday, February, 26. Union members are demanding salary rises, risk premiums, and benefits comparable to those offered to members of the military.
The protesters are also, in what union spokesman Chokri Hamada described as a ‘day of rage’, denouncing the return of former regime officials to the Ministry of the Interior and the lack of attention given by the Government to wage negotiations with internal security forces.
A meeting between unionists and representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of the Interior on Thursday night was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement on the protesters demands, after according to media reports the government had had proposed a monthly wage increase of 230 dinars. The SNFSI is seeking an increase of 390 dinars to their monthly pay.
In its second day, the protest continued with chants of ‘Dégage’ (get out) directed at Prime Minister Essid. Although larger than yesterday’s protest, so far it is limited to chants and slogans, on Thursday several protesters scaled the fence of the Kasbah palace and attempting to occupy the Prime Minister’s office.
The Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement on Friday, in which it “strongly condemns the actions of providers among members of the National Union of Internal Security Forces, who forcibly entered, [on] Thursday, February 25, 2016 the seat of government..” the statement “also denounced threats and slogans that have nothing to do with trade union action and professional claims.
Although the statement ended on a conciliatory note stating that “[the government] recognizes the enormous efforts made by security units that continue to devote the foundations of the republican security and play their full role in the war against terrorism, protection lives and the preservation of public and private property.” adding the government had an “ongoing commitment to improve the financial situation of the police officers to boost their morale, to equip them with all the equipment and materials necessary to ensure their and their families, better social coverage.”
“We’ve come out a second time because the government does not want to understand. We are demanding our financial rights, and a better salary and risk premiums we deserve,” the SNFSI’s secretary general Chokri Hamada told Reuters yesterday.
In January, the SNFSI rejected an earlier proposed wage increase of 80 dinars and in hopes of obtaining compensation for security officers whose homes are vandalized, higher transportation premiums and similar benefits as enjoyed by members of the armed forces, which receive health care for retired members.
The SNFSI and other security unions had repeatedly delayed threatened protests in January and even as negotiations stalled. Protests which had been scheduled to take place mid-January, were called off in light of the wave of protests over unemployment which spread through Tunisia in mid January.
Those protests over unemployment, corruption, and a lack of economic development; followed the death of Ridha Yahyaoui, an unemployed man from Kasserine. Security forces held off from their own planned protests as scale of the employment protests steadily increased throughout mid January until a curfew was imposed on Friday January 22.
As the employment protests ebbed, approximately three thousand members the SNFSI protested outside the Presidential Palace in Carthage in late January and a delegation of union members met with President Beji Caid Essebsi who assured the SNFSI that he would review their case with Prime Minister Habib Essid.
Following their meeting with Essebsi representatives from a another police union signed an labor agreement with the government, that agreement has since been rejected by the union’s members.
During the January employment protests two members of security forces lost their lives. Police officer Sofiene Bousslimi was killed when assaulted by protesters near Kasserine after his police car was overturned, and security agent Laabidi Dridi was found dead in Gafsa.
The SNFSI is also the union to which the Presidential Guard belong, twelve members of whom were killed when a suicide bomber blew up their bus in Tunis on November 23, 2015. Islamic State affiliated Jund al Khilafah claimed responsibility for the attack.