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Tunisia's Private Sector Stages Strike to Protest Suspension of Wage Raise

Tunisia's Private Sector Stages Strike to Protest Suspension of Wage Raise

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 12:15
A man holds a loaf of bread in his hand during a nationwide strike against the government's refusal to raise wages in Tunis, Tunisia January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunis, London - Mongi Saidani, Asharq Al-Awsat
Tunisia is facing a wave of protests and strikes by private sector employees as a result of the non-activation of wage raise for the years 2018-19.

The protest is carried out by workers in petrol stations, mills, bakeries, milk and dairy products and canning oils’ plants.

They could lead to almost complete paralysis in a number of the country’s facilities.

This protest has taken place after workers in petrol stations decided to enter a two-day strike following the failure of talks between Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) and the government on the implementation of a months ago agreement to raise wages.

While the UGTT maintained wage increases due to hike in prices and cost of living, owners of petrol stations have demanded the government to first raise the margin of their profits to be able to implement the agreements signed between the two parties, under government supervision.

The strike, which was announced by the General Union of Labor, calls for workers in the sector to classify the profession of transporting hydrocarbons in the transport of hazardous materials, which entails social benefits, as well as demands the application of an earlier wage increase agreement.

The Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and Traditional Industries and UGTT signed in October an amendment to raise wages by 6.5 percent, including a significant number of private sector economic activities.

Political analyst Naziha al-Busaidy explained that protests have become a preferred method to resolve complex social and work issues and the best way to improve workers’ conditions in both the public and private sectors.

Political parties in the ruling coalition criticized these protests, describing them as “premature” election campaigns, in reference to the opposition parties’ support for these movements.

The Tunisian government succeeded earlier this year in canceling nationwide strikes that were scheduled to be carried out by public sector employees and raised their wages for three years-period. But, the government didn’t review the wages of private sector workers due to the economic difficulties faced by the Tunisian institution.

However, the government’s decision to raise fuel prices contributed to the rise in the level of protests because this hike resulted in the damage of several economic activities, such as the agricultural sector in general and the private-public transport sector in particular.

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