Concern over the impact of strikes on the Tunisian economy has been revived after a five-day strike at the port of Rades by employees of the Tunisian Company for Stevedoring and Handling known by its French acronym (STAM).
The strike began July 7 but was suspended Thursday afternoon following the resignation of STAM’s CEO.
Salem Nabgha, President of the Transport Federation and member of the executive bureau of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce, and Artisans (UTICA), explained that the STAM employees went on strike following an interview with an official from the Ministry of Transport published in the Al Maghreb newspaper last week. The interview stated that the ministry wanted to privatize part of the port of Rades and contract some of its activities to foreign enterprises. [display_posts type=”related” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
Sonia Gharbi, the press attache at the Ministry of Transport denied that these privatization initiatives were taking place in an interview today with Tunisia Live.
Tunisia’s transitional period has not been immune to a wave of social and political demands on all sides and at all levels.
Strikes have become common in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, and their prevalence has harmful effects on the Tunisian economy.
Although the prevalence of strikes has declined significantly from last year, with nine percent of Tunisian workers striking during the first half of 2013, compared to 41 percent during the same period last year, the problem is still significant. The number of lost days due to strikes increased by 37 percent, and 215 companies have witnessed strikes during the first half of 2013, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Nabgha says the Tunisian economy has been “taken hostage,” with a loss estimated at ten million dollars per day in fees that must be paid because of delays at the port.
“Until now, even after the employees returned to their work, 24 ships containing 500 containers each are still waiting to be unloaded,” Nabgha said regarding the impacts of the Rades strike.
According to the Merchant Marine and Ports Office, the port of Rades is an important part of the national transportation system in part because of its specialization in container traffic. The port of Rades hosts 21 percent of the overall traffic in Tunisian commercial ports and 79 percent of the total tonnage of containerized goods.
They suggested reform and expansion of the port and revision of Tunisia’s maritime code.
CONECT, an association of employers, issued a press release today to condemn the strike.
“Strikes can aggravate the economic and social situation of the country and destroy the efforts the country is making to revive the national economy and promote employment,” the statement said.
Tarek Cherif, president of CONECT, told Tunisia Live that 90 percent of Tunisia’s imports and exports go through the Rades Port. He says the five days of strike will have huge consequences on Tunisian companies and their competitiveness will be hindered.
“Last year we had to pay 80 million dinars of penalties to Europe because ships would stay for weeks waiting to be unloaded,” said Cherif. “What happened is a disaster.”
Nabgha concluded that the Ministry of Transport should have dealt more seriously with the issue by having a crisis unit.