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Tunisia agrees to increase national minimum wage

Tunisian academicians hold placards during a protest demanding higher wages in front of parliamentary building in Tunis, Tunisia on 21 February 2018 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian academicians hold placards during a protest demanding higher wages in front of parliamentary building in Tunis, Tunisia on 21 February 2018 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

The Tunisian government inked a pledge to increase the national minimum wage on Saturday, after months of campaigning by labour unions, AllAfrica news agency has reported.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and Secretary-General of the Tunisian General Labour Union Noureddine Tabboubi signed the agreement in Dhiafa Palace, Carthage, although the specific amount by which the wage will increase will be set this week.

"An agreement that sets the deadline for wage talks in the public and private sectors will also be signed," Taboubi said of the upcoming meeting.

Some 15 other items were recorded in the agreement, including terms for those in precarious jobs, wage increases in some sectors, the reform of social funds, price controls and the revision of the statutes of the civil service and public institutions.

Chahed highlighted the importance of the decision for wage earners and retirees, expressing hope it will help improve security for the most vulnerable in society.

Read: World Bank approves $500m loan for Tunisia

Tunisian officials had previously said that the government would hold off increasing public wages this year to meet terms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its next loan tranche, but was unable to follow with the plan after pressure from labour unions.

Tunisians have been battling with several austerity measures as part of the government's commitment to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016 worth some $2.8 billion. The country has witnessed dozens of protests since the beginning of the year over cuts to wages and the subsidies of basic food staples, amid high unemployment and inflation.

According to a poll conducted by the private company Sigma Conseil, nearly 80 per cent of Tunisians believe that the country is on the wrong track, with many expressing increased dissatisfaction with the actions of the president and prime minister.

Tunisia's ruling parties have so far failed to agree on a new economic reform plan, although nine cabinets have been formed since the uprisings to address the challenges.

Read: Tunisia allocates $190m to reduce Central Pharmacy deficit

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