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Tunisia Government, Labor Union Fail to Agree on Wages

Tunisia Government, Labor Union Fail to Agree on Wages

Wednesday, 16 January, 2019 - 08:15
Tunisian activist speaks in front of anti-government protesters in Tunis, Tunisia, in this picture taken from social media. (File Photo: Reuters)
Tunis – Mongi Saidani

A scheduled strike for Thursday is likely to go ahead after Tunisia’s government and the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) failed to reach a deal on raising the wages of civil servants, union and government officials said.

UGTT official Hafedh Hfaidh reported no progress on the negotiations with the government, saying the union will go on strike Thursday.

A government source told Reuters the negotiations had failed despite a new proposal from the government, without providing any details.

The government held negotiations with the UGGT hoping to end the strike, as Minister of Social Development Mohammed al-Traboulsi said he was optimistic about the talks. However, UGTT Sec-Gen Noureddine Taboubi refused the government’s proposal and confirmed that the Union is preparing for Thursday’s strike.

Taboubi denied local media reports about calling the strike off, saying that such rumors aim to create confusion and turmoil. He didn’t rule out the possibility of calling for a general strike in all sectors in case the government did not respond to their requests.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi warned against the strike’s negative impact.

Speaking on the 8th anniversary of the revolution, Essebsi wished to avoid the strike "at all costs … because its negative consequences will be heavier than the benefits that can be obtained in case all demands are met.”

Financial expert Ezzeddine Seaidan estimated financial losses of no less than $100 million if the strike was held. These include public sector losses, saying Thursday's move will have dire consequences on the private sector, aside from its ramifications on the transportation sector.

The expert also warned that the strike will affect foreign investments, interest rates, and even foreign loans.

In other news, two rights groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the Tunisian President of abuse of power after he pardoned a jailed party official, Borhane Bsaies.

This prompted NGOs al-Bawsala and I-Watch to lodge a joint formal complaint, saying the President’s pardon was motivated by “partisan interests that run contrary to... the values of justice, equity and good governance, in a Tunisia that is riddled with corruption.”

Last October, Bsaies was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of taking improper payments during the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But in November, Bsaeis, who is close to Essebsi's son and Nidaa Tounes leader Hafedh Caid Essebsi, was pardoned by the President.

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