Tunisia –Government and nation’s largest union hope new wage pact will ease economic tensions
Location: Tunis, Tunisia
Source: A24 Tunis
Restriction: A24 subscribers
Tunisia’s government and the country’s most powerful labor union- called the UGTT – agreed Wednesday on a pact to increase public sector wages by 3.5 percent over the next three years.
The deal-which also covers state pensions–comes after marathon talks between the administration of President Kais Saied and the unions over broader reforms to meet the demands of the country’s biggest lenders, including the IMF, as the troubled North African economy seeks external financial help.
Tariq Al-Saidi, an analyst with a UGTT union-affiliated newspaper, told A24 that the agreement will enhance employees’ purchasing and shows that workers are doing their part to help restructure Tunisia’s economy.
However, some union members are criticizing the agreement saying the pay hikes are a minuscule match for the country’s inflation rate, averaging as high as nearly ten percent a month.
Soundbite (Tariq Al-Saidi – journalist in the newspaper of the Tunisian Labor Union):
The agreement aims to increase the wages of public sector and public service employees. As for the public service, the increase will be in the form of a sum of money, and for the public sector, the increase will be in the form of a percentage. There is also an increase in the guaranteed minimum wage of 7%, and the increase will also include retirees. This agreement is very important for employees to enhance their purchasing power, which has been greatly damaged as a result of inflation and price hikes. It is also important to achieve social stability necessary for the real launch of a comprehensive national dialogue that brings everyone together in order to save Tunisia”.
Soundbite (Walid – Economist):
“The Tunisian government found itself in a difficult situation and tried to compromise. If we compare the inflation rate in Tunisia, which amounted to 8.6% in recent months, with the proposed increase of 3.5%, we will find a big difference. But there are constraints imposed by global economic conditions, and imposed by the parties, cooperating with Tunisia, the international parties in particular. On the other hand, there is a spike in prices amid a decrease in the purchasing power of the citizen. So this is the most basic solution that the government can take. The percentage could have been greater as the goal in the end is to improve purchasing power to the citizen.”
Soundbite (Rida Hammami – employee in one of the Tunisian departments):
“The increase is 3.5%. For example, for someone whose wages are 1,000 Tunisian dinars, or 309 USD, this means an increase of 35 dinars ($10.8). This amount is not useful, especially in the midst of this situation, which requires that the increase be at least 10% to cover basic needs. Today, the prices of basic materials have risen. The price of a liter of oil rose from one dinar ($0.35) to 7 and 8 dinars ($2.16), in addition to many other products. The price of school supplies has gone up three or four times.”
Soundbite (Rafeeq – Retired Employee):
“Prices are constantly rising and people are stressed. I think the increase is reasonable. Every dinar will make a difference and help Tunisians. Today, people are engaged in collecting plastic to earn a living.”
Soundbite (Kamal – an employee in the Ministry of Employment):
“The increase is in the interest of the Tunisian employee, especially with the price hike. We want to improve the situation and purchasing power a little bit. But on the other hand, when wages increase, there will certainly be other increases in food prices and consumption, and therefore the situation will remain the same.”
Soundbite (Omar Al-Mahjoubi-Chairman and General Manager of a private company):
“We wish that the Tunisian citizen live in luxury. But, when the wage of an employee who does not work is increased, this is harmful. If we (private sector) were given projects, we can pay the employee a double wage. For example, if his wages are 600 dinars ($187.8), I will pay him 1,000 dinars ($313). Just give us work. The private sector pays more than the state, but if we do not find a job for the employee to work, then I will demand a reduction in wages.”