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Tunisia: General Labour Union warns government of 'social battle'

TUNIS, TUNISIA - MAY 07: Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden (not seen) and Secretary-General of Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi attend the ceremony in Tunis, Tunisia on May 07, 2022. ( Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency )
Secretary-General of Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The Secretary-General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi, warned on Wednesday of a "social battle" after the recent price increases in the country. He made his comment in a speech to hundreds of transport workers in the capital, Tunis, who had gathered to demand living and social rights.

The relationship between the government and the UGTT is growing tense, following the start of negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about an economic reform programme.

"If you want it to be a social battle, then so be it… The organisation will always remain on the side of the people, and there will be sector and national gatherings and movements," said Taboubi addressing the government.

In mid-September, Prime Minister Najla Bouden and the UGTT Secretary-General signed an agreement to increase wages by five per cent over the next three years as a general rate.

READ: Tunisia labour union warns gov't not to reform public sector for IMF funding

"We conducted social negotiations and we were aware that the agreement did not meet the aspirations of the working class… but we put an article in the agreement which stipulates the evaluation of negotiations in light of inflation and the increase in the interest rates… and today we say that we are not bound to all obligations," Taboubi added. "The government is deceiving our people by lifting subsidies… Regarding subsidies, I say that they were lifted in roundabout ways through increases in energy and others."

He revealed that the UGTT will make an official announcement next Tuesday, which will describe things as they really are. "The UGTT does not fear prisons and will soon be the base for the national battle, and it refuses to attribute the failure of the authority to the union."

Last Wednesday, the Tunisian government approved an increase in fuel prices, which is the fifth this year, under the framework of the oil price adjustment programme. The economy in the country is witnessing the worst crisis since the country's independence in the 1950s due to political instability and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, amid calls for the authorities to implement economic reforms.

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