The UGTT press conference
(Wednesday, January 16, 2019 – Tunis)
The general strike of January 17, 2019 maintained
The Deputy Secretary General and spokesman of the UGTT, Mr. Sami Tahri, said that the general strike in the civil service and public sector decreed by the UGTT since November 2018 is maintained for 17 January 2019. Mr Tahri highlighted that despite many concessions and efforts made by the UGTT and caveats about failure of negotiations, the government continued to slow down the process and it didn’t seek a solution respecting the supreme interest of the Nation.
Speaking at a press conference held in the Place Mohamed Ali in the presence of members of the UGTT Board, Mr. Sami Tahri stressed the right of all Tunisians and public opinion in general to be informed of the painful and marathoner course of negotiations which required more than one hundred sessions and ultimately failed in view of the positions of wait-and-see and stubbornness taken by the Government in the face of major economic and social issues such that tax evasion, the huge deficit of social security funds, informal economy, inflation and the decline of purchasing power of Tunisians.
The spokesman of the UGTT has emphasized the lack of seriousness that marked the negotiations process adding that this press conference comes just after the session held yesterday at the “Kasbah”, bringing together UGTT and government delegations. This meeting, he added, lasted only two hours, while the media announced that it took seven hours. The government delegation withdrew many times to consult the staff of the IMF, thousands of km from Tunis. Some members of the UGTT delegation wondered why not to negotiate directly with the IMF, given the lack of negotiation competence of some government members.
A last-minute meeting took place today (January 16, 2019) between the SG of the UGTT and the President of the Government which lasted only few minutes and was rather a courtesy meeting, as said Mr Tahri.
Speaking in turn, Mr. Hfaiedh Hfaiedh Deputy Secretary General, in charge of legal affairs and coordinator of the UGTT’s negotiators noted that the 17th January strike is due to government’s procrastination, its unwillingness to resolve thorny and burning issues, and the absence of a comprehensive vision for economic and social choices. He appeals all trade unionists and public service workers to demonstrate sense of responsibility, vigilance and calm during the strike.
He added that the public sector will not participate in this strike as a sign of solidarity with civil servants, but because it is fundamentally and directly concerned since the agreement signed by the Government concerning of the public sector has been applied in part. Several issues such that reform of State Owned Enterprises remain unsolved.
Mr. Hfaiedh noted also that the UGTT has been interactive and brought new uplifting and constructive proposals to make the negotiation succeed and possibly cancel the general strike. Nevertheless, the Government went too far by rejecting all proposals and it suggests a small wage increase starting on December 2018 accompanied by a second tranche that will be paid from January 2020 as a tax credits; This will deprive pensioners from automatic increase of their pensions guaranteed by section 37 of the Pensions Act.
Mr. Monaam Amira, Deputy Secretary General in charge of Civil Service, said that the government spokesman keeps providing false and misleading information to the public opinion by insinuating that the UGTT has declared a general strike for political purposes.
Mr Amira added that the UGTT found itself forced to declare a general strike given the Government’s refusal to honor its commitments and reluctance to respect previous agreements. Such attitude undermines the credibility of the negotiation. To this end, he has shown the media copies of minutes of meetings and agreements signed since November 2017.
He ended his intervention by declaring that this strike has no political motivation, the UGTT having decreed it to defend a fair distribution of wealth, not to divide the Tunisians between active and retired, and to guarantee the sovereign decision of the Tunisia.
With respect to the measures and the modalities of the 17th January strike, the UGTT publish a “communiqué” exhorting the civil servants and workers of the public sector to participate massively to the strike and take part in the meeting that will take place in Place Mohamed Ali (UGTT HQ). It also asked workers to provide a minimum and vital services.