Tunisia, massive strike of the public sector

An unprecedented general strike with regard to all public services began on Thursday (January 17) in Tunisia at the insistence of the powerful UGTT trade union center, demanding wage increases in a tense political context at the beginning of the election year.

This is a massive and unprecedented strike that began on Thursday, January 17 in Tunisia. Public schools were closed all over the country, public transport paralyzed and the Tunisair flights disrupted.

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) insists on higher pay rises than the 70 dinars (20 euros) for 2019 and 110 dinars (30 euros) for 2020 proposed by the government. The union emphasizes the decline in purchasing power as a result of inflation, which reached 7.5% in 2018. The average gross salary of an official is 1,580 dinar (€ 500) according to the latest official report for 2016.

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The dialogue continues after the warning

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed insisted on a television speech on Wednesday evening that the state of public finances did not accept the UGTT's requests, adding that the dialogue would continue after this 24-hour strike.

The government demanded, in a decree published in extremis, that certain public organizations, including transport, water and electricity companies, provide a minimum service. A public strike was already crowded in November 2018.

Tense political debate as legislative approaches

Thursday's strike is the first of its kind to affect both public services and state-owned companies, according to the UGTT and some historians. It is because the political debate has been tightening in recent months for the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for late 2019, in which the union wants to weigh.

Despite the progress of the democratic transition after the fall of President Zine el Abidid Ben Ali in 2011, and a recovery in growth after years of recession, Tunisia struggles with the social expectations of the population.

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Inflation, especially fueled by the fall of the dinar, and persistent unemployment of more than 15%, fueled a dissatisfaction expressed in one-time confrontations, especially in January, and a series of social mobilisations. Donors who keep Tunisia afloat argue for a slowdown in sovereign debt and a reduction in the weight of public service in GDP, ie 14%, one of the highest rates in the region.

The Cross (with AFP)