Tunisian labour union plans new strike over wages

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Tunisia’s influential General Labour Union (UGTT) has called for a new nationwide strike in February, raising pressure on the government to increase wages.

Saturday’s call comes two days after thousands of Tunisian workers staged a day-long nationwide walkout that paralysed services in the North African country.

UGTT head Nourredine Taboubi said Saturday that the new stoppage would be held for two days from Feb. 20 to Feb. 21.

“This decision comes after negotiations with the government on wage increases hit a deadlock,” he said in a statement.

In recent months, Tunisia has been under pressure from international lenders, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to take drastic measures to revamp its economy.

The UGTT has repeatedly accused the government of bowing to IMF demands for economic reforms.

On Wednesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said salary increases must be accompanied by growth, “or it will lead to more borrowing and debt.”

Tunisia has struggled with an economic slowdown, public unrest triggered by the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ensuing attacks by militant insurgents.

In Dec. 2018 there were protests in several Tunisian areas which turned violent after the death of a journalist who set himself on fire in the western city of Kasserine to protest poor living conditions in the country.

The incident was reminiscent of the case of street vendor Mohamed Bouaziz, whose decision to set himself on fire more than eight years ago, sparked the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled several Arab autocrats.

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