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Tunisian Labor Union Threatens to Hold General Strike as it Escalates Crisis with Govt.

Tunisian Labor Union Threatens to Hold General Strike as it Escalates Crisis with Govt.

Wednesday, 12 September, 2018 - 10:45
Unemployed protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunisia January 14, 2017. (Reuters)
Tunis - al-Munji Saidani
The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) threatened to stage a general strike in protest against the government’s plans to freeze public wage increases as part of measures to control the budget deficit.

However, several observers downplayed the dangers of a general strike at the country’s public institutions, saying that the threat to hold the strike is linked to the Union’s dispute with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government.

They saw that the possible adoption of this decision will increase the economic and social crisis in Tunisia and may lead to the suspension of any dialogue between the government and the UGTT.

The UGTT’s administrative body is set to convene on September 20 to take a final decision on holding a strike.

A number of political and social parties warned that the strike could turn into a wave of social protests, which previously erupted in several cities in the country over high living costs.

In this regard, UGTT assistant secretary-general Monem Amira noted that the government's inaction in negotiations over the wage increase has not yielded any results given the increased pressure from foreign bodies, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Meanwhile, sources close to the Union reported that it has started preparing for a series of forthcoming movements in order to defend the public sector institutions and respond to the systematic campaigns against it.

Union spokesman, Sami al-Tahiri, accused the Ennahda Movement of being behind the smear campaigns against the UGTT leaders.

He also cited the financial support the government, backed by Ennahda, received from Britain to improve its image and end social protests that the country witnessed at the beginning of the year.

Tahiri explained that the upcoming strike has nothing to do with the government, saying that the intensive consultations held by the Union with several leaders of the Tunisian parties and organizations are aimed at saving the country.

“The country will collapse should the current government remain in power,” he charged.

He asserted that the Union’s call for a government reshuffle has nothing to do with the presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2019, but from its massive failure in resolving pending issues, such as unemployment and the lack of development, economic and social stability.

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