The Tunisian General Workers’ Union have refused to agree to any delay in increasing public sector salaries, putting the trade union body on collision course with many of the country’s international creditors.
According to UGTT, public sector and government salaries have not increased since 2013 . The Secretary General of the UGTT, Houcine Abassi spoke of an “absolute rejection of any delay or cancellation of agreed [wage] increases,” a statement on their website confirmed.
In an interview on France 24, Abassi said that the government had asked the UGTT to wait until 2019 for any potential salary increase, telling interviewers that, if the government had no money, they should seek additional funds from those currently avoiding tax, including many of the country’s large business. “Our Economy is exhausted because of the lack of economic planning and organisation.” Aboussi also accused the government of a lack of leadership, saying “the government needs to respect agreements and hurry up and do their job.”
According to the National Institute for Statistics (INS) the current rate of inflation is 4.2%, meaning the cost of living in Tunisia is rising significantly, while growth remains low at only 1.4%, putting additional pressure upon public sector salary negotiations.
Tunisia currently spends more on public sector salaries, (38% of last year’s budget) than most countries in the world and any increase in spending is likely to run counter to the reforms being urged upon Tunisia by its international creditors. Speaking to TAP, Assistant Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Fiscal Affairs Department, Abdelhak Senhadji said “the co-operation program started last April by Tunisia with the IMF aims to limit inefficient public spending.”
As reported on TAP, Tunisia is seeking funding for its five year development strategy from both the World Bank and the IMF, adding extra pressure to government negotiations with the UGTT. In return for assurances of widespread economic reform, the IMF pledged $ 2.9 billion to Tunisia as part of an Extended Credit Facility (ECF), with the first installment of $ 319.5 million arriving in May of this year.
In a statement dated 29th September the Ministry of Finance laid out its plans for modernizing the economy, and called for the participation of the country’s key civil society organisations, the UGTT, UTICA, UTAP, SINAGRI and the National order of Lawyers Tunisians. The MoF emphasized “the role of the state to promote and encourage investment, to support sectors in difficulty, to reduce administrative procedures and reduce taxes on individuals and societies.”