The powerful Tunisian trade union center UGTT announced on Tuesday a nationwide public sector strike on June 16 to protest rising inflation and the privatization of major state-owned enterprises.
The announcement comes at a time when the country is mired in a deep economic crisis, and the government is counting on the General Union of Tunisian Workers’ (UGTT) support for the reform plan it has submitted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the hope of obtaining new credit.
The union accused President Kais Saied of “undermining negotiation principles and reneging on previous agreements” in a statement, while the country is experiencing “crazy and continuous price rises,” with inflation at 7.5 percent in April.
“All the staff” of the 159 institutions and public enterprises will stop work in order to obtain “immediate negotiations to restore the purchasing power of Tunisians”, the UGTT said in a statement.
The union is asking for “guarantees” that public companies, many of which are monopolies (cereal office, electricity, fuel, phosphates, etc.), will not be privatised.
The government has submitted to the IMF a reform plan that includes freezing civil service wage bills, gradually reducing some state subsidies, and restructuring state-owned enterprises.
However, the IMF wants the social partners, including the UGTT, to back up these promises and ensure their implementation.
Tunisia, shook by a deep political crisis following President Saied’s July 25 coup, has requested $4 billion in aid, the third in ten years for the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring.
The rating agency Fitch expressed regret on Monday that tensions between the government and the UGTT were impeding IMF negotiations, saying it was “very difficult” to “adopt political and economic reforms without the support of the UGTT.”
Last week, the UGTT announced its refusal to participate in Mr. Saied’s “national dialogue” process, which excludes political parties.
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