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Tunisia, union agree salary increases for civil servants

Tunisian high school teachers attend a demonstration demanding wage increases and improvements to their working conditions, in front of Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) in Tunis, Tunisia on 9 January 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The government of Tunisia has settled on a deal with the influential UGTT union to raise the wages of 670,000 public employees, Reuters reported today.

The deal comes following months of protests and strikes, in which rail, bus and air traffic was stopped in Tunisia last month, and street protests drew thousands as the UGTT staged a one-day nationwide strike.

Teachers in particular have been boycotting exams held for hundreds of thousands of students for almost two months. Yesterday thousands of teachers gathered to protest near the prime minister's office to demand higher wages and better working conditions, chanting "We want our rights" and "This is a pen revolution" in Al Kasbah square in central Tunis.

Among the demands by the teachers' union are salary increases and a reduction in the retirement age. The government has said the demands are unfair and that it is unable to be met them.

Tunisia extends state of emergency for a month

Yesterday's protest, which was organised on a school holiday, occurred a few weeks ahead of a public sector strike which the UGTT union planned for the 20-22 February. It is not clear, however, if the strike will go ahead due now a del has been struck.

The cause of the protests and strikes that have taken place throughout Tunisia can be tracked back to the pressure that the country is under from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to freeze public sector spending in order to help reduce its budget deficit.

Since the fall of the former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, the country has undergone an economic crisis with increased unemployment and inflation levels. The IMF struck a $2.8 million loan agreement with Tunisia at the end of 2016, and consequently it aims to cut its public sector wages from 15.5 per cent – currently one of the world's highest levels – to 12.5 per cent.

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