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.


Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

Updated 19 February 2019
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Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

  • The blast also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen
  • Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability

CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.

The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.

Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.

“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”

Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.

Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.

Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.

Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.

The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.

In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.

On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.
 

(With AFP)