Tunisair, the country’s national carrier has announced job cuts totaling around 1,000 of its current staff.
According to a press release issued yesterday, the layoffs, which will see 12 percent of Tunisair’s permanent staff lose their jobs, come as part of a wider program to restructure the company to increase its international competitiveness. However, the announcement has met with hostility by Tunisia’s leftist parties who have accused the newly appointed Chahed of already bowing to pressure from international financial bodies.
The move comes as part of a wider government program to reduce the losses of Tunisia’s large state owned enterprises, such as Tunisair, which last year were estimated to run to some $1.5 bn. Currently, Tunisair employs around 8,200 full-time staff members, with the cost of the layoffs estimated at some 100 million Dinars, Reuters reported.
Within yesterday’s statement, the Minister of Transport, Anis Guedira is quoted as saying, “the layoffs had been planned months ago as a part of a plan to reform the national company, and it’s a decision that came after an agreement with the unions” in order to reduce costs and enhance competitiveness. Guedira continued, “Job cuts will reach 1,000 in Tunisair in total.” He said also that the first phase of the layoffs will be to invite up to 400 of Tunisiar’s permanent team to apply for voluntary redundancy.
Constitutional law professor and member of the Popular Front, Ahmed Safi told Tunisia Live that “dismissing employees is the first indication from the Chahed Government that it intends to run counter to the Carthage document,” referencing the agreement between many of Tunisia’s leading parties on how they will resolve the crisis currently affecting the country. He continued, “administration and employers’ issues are a company’s internal affair and it can’t be a national issue.” Referring to the wider issues touched upon by this dramatic round of job losses, Safi said that lowering people’s salaries and decreasing the number of employees in the workforce were initiatives ordered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank rather than genuine Tunisian policy.
“Chahed has warned that he will resort to an austerity program if he feels he needs to.” Safi said, “However, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) will definitely oppose this decision. We shouldn’t let go of our institutions easily. We shouldn’t submit to the IMF or the World Bank.”
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.