Tunisia’s UGTT Mulls 'Compromise' Ahead of Strike

Workers stage a protest in front of the national union headquarters in Tunis. AP Photo
Workers stage a protest in front of the national union headquarters in Tunis. AP Photo
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Tunisia’s UGTT Mulls 'Compromise' Ahead of Strike

Workers stage a protest in front of the national union headquarters in Tunis. AP Photo
Workers stage a protest in front of the national union headquarters in Tunis. AP Photo

Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union confederation, locked in a dispute with the government over wage raises, has said it is open to compromise ahead of February strikes -- "but not at any price".

Secretary General Noureddine Taboubi told Agence France Presse that the Tunisian General Labor Union wants to be involved in elections later this year.

The UGTT staged a mass public sector strike last week as talks with the government on social and economic reforms remained deadlocked.

It has since called further strikes for February 20 and 21, demanding bigger public sector wage increases in a country battling soaring unemployment and inflation of 7.5 percent.

"We don't want to strike for the sake of striking," Taboubi said in an interview Monday.

"We have announced another strike in a month, in the hope that we'll find a compromise. But not at any price."

Public sector employees make up around a quarter of Tunisia's workforce.

The UGTT has demanded higher public sector pay rises than those on offer by the government, as well as guarantees protecting some of Tunisia's many publicly owned companies from privatization.

It said some 90 percent of public sector workers had observed the January 17 strike, which caused mayhem in the country's airports, despite calls from President Beji Caid Essebsi for them to stay at their posts.

Taboubi said Monday that negotiations were still in progress, noting there were four weeks left to reach an agreement.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has said the state of Tunisia's public finances means it cannot meet the UGTT's demands.

But the UGTT has sharply criticized the government for accepting a 2.4-billion-euro loan from the International Monetary Fund in exchange for pledges to carry out sweeping economic reforms.

Taboubi said it would play a role in this year's presidential and parliamentary elections, pledging to remain "peaceful and civilized".

"I repeat: this has nothing to do with wanting to bring down this government or any other," he said.



WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
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WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing "catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions".

"A significant proportion of Gaza's population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food."

Tedros said there were more than 8,000 children under five years old who have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition, including 1,600 children with severe acute malnutrition.

"However, due to insecurity and lack of access, only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients can operate," he added.

"Our inability to provide health services safely, combined with the lack of clean water and sanitation, significantly increases the risk of malnourished children."

The war in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's response has caused the deaths of more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry, displaced most of Gaza's population of 2.3 million and caused widespread hunger and destruction.

A UN inquiry on Wednesday found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes early in the Gaza war, and that Israel's actions also constituted crimes against humanity because of the immense civilian losses.

Tedros also highlighted a separate health crisis in the West Bank, where he said healthcare had been targeted by nearly 500 attacks since Oct. 7.

"While the world's focus has been on Gaza, there is also an escalating health crisis in the West Bank, where attacks on healthcare and restrictions on movement of people are obstructing access to health services," he said.

"In most areas of the West Bank, clinics are only operating two days a week and hospitals are operating at about 70% capacity."