Representatives of the interim government and the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) met last Saturday to mend the rift that has opened between the two institutions.
A series of protests have been held following a wave of vandalism against UGTT headquarters throughout Tunisia two weeks ago, protests which led to sometimes violent confrontation between police and demonstrators. UGTT leaders have accused Ennahda, the ruling party in Tunisia’s interim government, of being behind the vandalism, and tension has risen on both sides of the debate.
This initial meeting brought together various members of the interim government – the ministers of social affairs, finance, and administrative reform, and the presidential counselor for social and economic affairs - and a delegation from the UGTT.
The conflict between the UGTT and the Government has steadily escalated in recent weeks, mobilizing scores of pro-government and pro-union demonstrators, each side accusing the other of meddling in affairs outside of their respective spheres.
UGTT Spokesperson Sami Tahri declared that the union will do everything in its power to check “the government’s attempt to expand its authority over labor unions.”
“We want the interim government to respect our independence,” he stated.
A subsequent meeting has been scheduled for the end of this week, which will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and UGTT General Secretary Hussein Abbassi.
Tahri explained that the upcoming series of negotiations, which will be held through the end of March, will attempt to define the relationship between the government, the UGTT, and other stakeholders involved with affairs concerning employment and the workforce.
“The Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce, and Craftsmanship (UTICA) will certainly participate in the upcoming negotiations,” Mohamed Zghal, the spokesperson of UTICA, confirmed.
Agreements regarding raising wages for private sector employees along with settling the cases of subcontractors in the public sector are expected to be at the top of the UGTT’s agenda in the upcoming negotiations.