Tunis, Tunisia – A strike by Tunisia’s largest commerce union floor the nation to a halt regardless of last-minute makes an attempt by the nation’s president, Kais Saied, to stop it from going down.
The Tunisian Basic Labour Union (UGTT) known as for the nation’s three million public-sector staff to strike and it mentioned most took half on Thursday, which led to closed airports, public transport, ports, and authorities places of work.
A number of hundred workers from state corporations gathered in entrance of the UGTT’s headquarters within the capital Tunis to carry a rally towards the Tunisian authorities’s financial reform plans – the declared purpose for the protest.
UGTT supporters carried flags, sang union anthems, and chanted slogans reminiscent of “with the union, at all times trying forward” and “in our life, in our blood, we’re with the union”.
Addressing the gang, UGTT’s Secretary-Basic Noureddine Taboubi mentioned 96 p.c of union members participated within the strike. Al Jazeera couldn’t independently confirm the declare.
‘No alternative however to strike’
The employees protested Saied’s resolution to freeze wages and lower subsidies as a part of the federal government deal to safe a $4bn mortgage from the Worldwide Financial Fund.
Nonetheless, the strike additionally got here as a seamless political disaster escalated in Tunisia, with opposition rising to what has been perceived as makes an attempt by Saied to entrench himself in power since he suspended the nation’s parliament final July.
“We’re nonetheless looking for a compromise with the federal government,” Hedia Arfaoui, UGTT’s deputy secretary-general answerable for exterior relations, instructed Al Jazeera on the rally. “We demand an efficient and actual social dialogue.”
Arfaoui urged the union is open to discussing some financial reforms that might be much less “painful” than the circumstances of the bailout imposed by the IMF.
“The federal government went forward with its reform plan with out consulting the UGTT whereas we now have social and financial questions that must be addressed,” Mongi Merzgui, secretary-general of the union on the Nationwide Workplace of Sanitation (ONAS), instructed Al Jazeera.
“We had no alternative however to strike. We don’t have folks with authority inside the cupboard who can negotiate, and the president doesn’t hearken to anybody.”
No to nationwide dialogue
On Wednesday, the UGTT indicated in a press release that staff would “maintain this strike to defend their financial and social rights after the dithering of the federal government within the face of their authentic calls for”.
It additionally denounced the worsening social state of affairs of workers in all classes “in gentle of low wages, rising costs, [and] the deterioration of purchasing power”.
The one-day strike was publicised by the labour union two weeks in the past after Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane introduced an financial and social programme the federal government submitted to the IMF, which incorporates freezing wages and employment in public jobs, lifting subsidies, and the privatisation of public corporations.
The worldwide lender has urged the cupboard to succeed in an settlement with the UGTT as a situation for a rescue package deal, in alternate for doubtlessly painful financial reforms.
For the highly effective organisation, the measures pushed forth below the federal government programme had been inconceivable at a time when Tunisians had been going through 18 p.c unemployment and inflation hitting 7.8 p.c, aggravated by hovering vitality and wheat costs brought on by the war in Ukraine.
The strike, which is supposed to function the idea for IMF negotiations, added to growing stress on Saied’s political and social strikes in the direction of reform, posing the largest check the Tunisian president has confronted since final July.
Fitch Rankings lately warned tensions between the federal government and the UGTT, a key participant in Tunisian politics, had been hindering negotiations with the IMF, and passing political and financial reforms with out the union’s backing can be difficult.
Saied deliberate a referendum on a brand new structure for subsequent month, however has confronted widespread opposition.
Tensions surfaced earlier this month when the UGTT introduced it will not take part in a nationwide dialogue launched by Saied, which excluded opposition forces.
“We refused to participate within the dialogue as a result of we don’t see it as an answer for Tunisia,” Taboubi mentioned.
The union, which initially backed Saied when he dismissed the federal government and suspended parliament, has turn out to be more and more important because the president continued to consolidate energy, in what his opponents have known as an ongoing “coup”.