Tunisian union calls new nationwide strike to press wage demands

Rail, bus and air traffic and all services stopped in Tunisia and street protests drew thousands on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Tunisian union calls new nationwide strike to press wage demands

  • Rail, bus and air traffic and all services stopped in Tunisia and street protests drew thousands on Thursday

TUNIS: Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union called on Saturday for another national strike for two days next month to press its demand for higher wages for 670,000 public servants, the UGTT chief said.

Rail, bus and air traffic and all services stopped in Tunisia and street protests drew thousands on Thursday in a one-day nationwide strike to challenge the government’s refusal to raise salaries.

“As negotiations with the government failed and the purchasing power has deteriorated significantly, UGTT decided to approve a nationwide strike on Feb. 20 and 21,” UGTT chief Nourredine Taboubi told reporters.

The decision will raise the pressure on the government, which is struggling to revive the faltering economy.

The government is also under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to freeze public sector wages, the bill for which doubled to about 16 billion dinars ($5.5 billion) in 2018 from 7.6 billion in 2010, as part of measures to reduce its budget deficit.

But the UGTT says the monthly average wage of about $250 is one of the lowest in the world, while the state Institute of Strategic Studies says real purchasing power has fallen by 40 percent since 2014.

The government had said it does not have the money to pay for the increases strikers want, worth about $850 million in total.

Government spokesman Iyad Dahmani said that increase would lift annual inflation to 10 percent from 7.4 percent.

An economic crisis has eroded living standards for Tunisians and unemployment is high as political turmoil and lack of reforms have deterred investment needed to create jobs. That has forced the government to launch austerity measures to please donors and lenders including the IMF.


Egypt to host African summits Tuesday on Sudan, Libya

Updated 22 April 2019
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Egypt to host African summits Tuesday on Sudan, Libya

  • The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir
  • The planned summits are the first to be convened by African leaders on the current crises in Sudan and Libya

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will lead two emergency summits with other African leaders on Tuesday to address events in Sudan and Libya, his presidency said.
The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir.
They will also seek to “stem the current crisis” in Libya, where commander Khalifa Haftar is leading an offensive on Tripoli, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.
El-Sisi is also the current president of the African Union.
He will receive the Chadian president Idriss Deby, Rwanda’s head of state Paul Kagame, Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa as well as Dijbouti’s leader Ismail Omar Guelleh.
The planned summits are the first to be convened by African leaders on the current crises in Sudan and Libya.
For Sudan, the objective “is to discuss ... the most appropriate ways to address the evolution of the situation and to contribute to stability and peace,” Egypt’s presidency said.
The AU on April 15 threatened to suspend Sudan if the military does not hand over power within 15 days of that date to a civilian authority.
President of the African Union commission Moussa Faki is also expected to participate in the discussions, along with officials from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.
Another summit on Libya, which will bring together the leaders of Rwanda, South Africa and the Congo with El-Sisi, will focus on “relaunching a political process... (and) the elimination of terrorism,” Egypt’s presidency said.
Strongman Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, on April 4.
Egypt is a strong ally of Haftar, who is also backed by the UAE and — according to the White House — was consulted by US President Donald Trump in a phone call last week.