On 22 November, 670,000 public sector workers of the Tunisian union federation Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) took part in a general strike to demand higher wages.
An estimated 6 per cent of the population of Tunisia took part in the strike action, the biggest since 2013. The public sector in Tunisia includes workers organized by UGTT unions affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.
International lenders, including the International Monetary Fund, have put pressure on the Tunisian government to reduce its budget deficit by reforming the public sector. Reforms include a wage freeze and the proposed privatization of publicly owned resources.
The UGTT has resisted the government’s plans, saying that they risk eroding the quality of public services. Due to rising inflation and a fall in the value of the currency, workers have lost purchasing power and deserve a pay rise.
The UGTT originally called for a strike on 24 October as well as 22 November. The October strike was called off after months of negotiation, when the government agreed to raise salaries for 150,000 workers. However, the government reneged on its commitment.
Yesterday’s strike is a reaction to the government’s failure to respect three previous agreements.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches sent a solidarity letter to the UGTT, saying:
“The strike shows the UGTT’s commitment to defending the rights of public sector employees, who deserve a wage increase, given rising inflation, the fall in the value of the Tunisian dinar and an increase in taxes.
“We are aware that this strike comes after all possibilities for dialogue have been exhausted and negotiations have failed to reach agreement on the need to raise wages in the public sector.”