After refusing to participate in a restricted conversation suggested by President Kais Saied while he rewrites the nation’s Constitution, Tunisia’s major labor union said on Monday, May 23rd that it will organize a countrywide strike over salaries and the economy.
With over a million members, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) is Tunisia’s most politically powerful group, and its call for a strike has gained traction and could very well be the strongest threat yet to President Saied after he seized vast powers and moved to one-man rule.
President Saied has been focusing on his political agenda since last summer, when he dismissed the parliament and much of Tunisia’s democratic constitution, declaring that, despite a looming economic catastrophe, he would rule by decree.
Opponents accuse President Saied of launching a coup in order to undo the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution, which began the Arab Spring. President Saied claims his actions were lawful and necessary to preserve Tunisia from a lengthy political crisis.
The Union has Stated…..
The union has called for serious national discourse on both political and economic changes, however, it has declined Saied’s invitation to join a small advisory council comprising other social movements that may make reform recommendations.
“We reject any formal dialogue in which roles are determined unilaterally and from which civil and political forces are excluded,” announced UGTT spokesperson Sami Tahri.
At a meeting of the UGTT’s executive committee, Secretary-General Noureddine Taboubi stated that the suggested discussion, which “ignores influential political actors” in the nation “will not be able to resolve the crisis in the country or layout a better future for it.”
On Friday, May 20th, he designated a conservative law professor to chair a committee tasked with updating the 2014 constitution, which resulted from the inclusive democratic process that followed the Arab Spring protests that overthrew long-time leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. President Saied stated that political parties will be excluded from participating in the creation of the new constitution.
Tunisia’s major political parties have pledged to challenge President Saied’s decision to exclude them from key political developments including the creation of the constitution.
According to Achaab, the union’s publication, President Saied spoke with a UGTT chairperson on Sunday, May 22nd, and informed him that he maintained his stance during the discussion continuing in the existing format that he offered.
The date of the strike by UGTT members working in public services and state-owned enterprises will be announced later, according to Tahri.
President Saied’s administration is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a bailout, which is viewed as crucial to avoid national bankruptcy, but the UGTT has rejected planned budget cutbacks and instead demands salary hikes for state workers.