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Tunisia’s UGTT union calls new strike to press wage demands

By Reuters - Nov 24,2018 - Last updated at Nov 24,2018

A man walks to enter the headquarters of the General Union of Tunisian Workers in Tunis, Tunisia, on Saturday (Reuters photo)

TUNIS — Tunisia's powerful UGTT union called another national strike for January to press its demand for higher wages after the government said on Saturday it would seek a realistic pay deal.

About 650,000 public sector workers went on strike and thousands joined protests across Tunisia on Thursday over the government's refusal to raise wages amid threats from international lenders to stop financing Tunisia's tattered economy.

Raising the pressure on the government the UGTT approved plans for a nationwide strike that include public employees and state companies on January 17.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed conceded that pay was an issue, but added that any agreement must take into account the public finances.

"There is a real problem in the decline in purchasing power and high inflation and the decline of public services... These will be our priorities in the next period," Chahed told parliament.

The government had said it does not have the money to pay for the increases strikers want, worth about 2 billion Tunisian dinars ($690 million) in total.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and a deepening political crisis, Chahed is battling to cut the budget deficit to about 4.9 per cent of GDP this year and 3.9 per cent in 2019 from 6.2 per cent last year.

His unpopular reforms include cuts to the public sector, state companies and fuel subsidies.

The 2011 uprising was sparked by anger at unemployment and poverty and record levels of inflation. 

The state Institute of Strategic Studies says real purchasing power has fallen by 40 per cent since 2014. 

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