Powerful Tunisian union starts nationwide strike over pay

Tunisians wave flags during a rally marking the eighth anniversary of the 2011 revolution in front of the headquarter of the Tunisian General Labour Union in the capital Tunis on January 14, 2019. (AFP / Fethi Belaid)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Powerful Tunisian union starts nationwide strike over pay

  • The one-day strike will hit airports, ports, schools, hospitals, state media and government offices
  • Tunisia is under pressure from the IMF to freeze public sector wages as part of reforms to help reduce the country’s budget deficit
TUNIS: Tunisia’s biggest union, UGTT, started a nationwide strike on Thursday affecting the country’s airports, schools and state media to protest against the government’s refusal to raise the salaries of 670,000 public servants.
Tunisia is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to freeze public sector wages as part of reforms to help reduce the country’s budget deficit.
International lenders have threatened to stop financing the economy, which has been in crisis since the toppling of President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
The one-day strike will hit airports, ports, schools, hospitals, state media and government offices, but Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said the state will provide minimum services in vital sectors including aviation, ports, buses and trains.
Tunisia’s state-owned airline Tunisair expects major disruptions to its flight schedule due to the strike and urged customers to change bookings, it said, adding that at least 16 flights will be postponed.
Chahed said the strike will be very expensive but the government could not raise wages disproportionately to the state’s ability to afford it.
Sami Tahri, Deputy Secretary-General of the UGTT, said the government had come under the dictates of the IMF and had chosen the difficult solution of confrontation with public servants.
Government and union sources told Reuters that the government had proposed spending about $400 million on pay rises whereas the UGTT had asked for about $850 million.
Tunisia struck a deal with the IMF in December 2016 for a loan program worth around $2.8 billion to overhaul its ailing economy with steps to cut chronic deficits and trim bloated public services, but progress has been slow.
Tunisia’s economy has been in crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali threw it into turmoil, with unemployment and inflation shooting up.
The government aims to cut the public sector wage bill to 12.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2020 from the current 15.5 percent, one of the world’s highest levels according to the IMF.


Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

Updated 55 min 32 sec ago
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Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

  • The constitutional declaration is expected to be signed on Friday
  • The deal aims to help the political transition in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ruling military council and an opposition alliance signed a political accord on Wednesday as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country nation to democracy.
The agreement was signed in Khartoum in the presence of African mediators following a night of talks to iron out some details of the agreement reached earlier this month.
The deal is meant to pave the way to a political transition in Sudan after military leaders ousted former President Omar Al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against him.
“We want a stable homeland, because we have suffered a great deal,” Ibrahim Al-Amin, a leader in the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, said after the ceremony.
Ethiopian mediator Mahmud Dirir said Sudan needed to overcome poverty and called for the country to be taken of a US list of states that support terrorism.
The sides are still working on a constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday.