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Flights scheduled to and from Tunisia have been canceled (Kenzo Tribuyer / AFP)

Paralysis invades Tunisia today, Thursday, under the weight of a massive workers’ strike by the Tunisian General Labor Union, which includes 159 government institutions, in protest of the government’s refusal to negotiate a package of professional claims for profit. of a large sector. of public sector employees.

Mediation and negotiations failed to stem the tide of demands, with authorities caught up in the decision not to enforce them. Wajih al-Zaidi, secretary general of the University of Transport, which includes the largest and most important striking institutions, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the strike involves 15 land transport companies and air traffic will be disrupted in it. all airports of the country. , with the cancellation of flights to and from Tunisia, and the strike affects the Tunisian company Navigation, the National Meteorological Institute and the Technical Transport Agency.

Al-Zaidi added that unions in the transport sector are ready to stop work and are present at zero o’clock to protect the rights of employees in government companies in land, air and sea transport and other related facilities. with the university. Al-Zaidi stressed that “workers in the transport sector are disciplined according to the decisions of their union structures and this will translate into the success of the strike in all institutions that provide transport by bus, as well as air, sea and rail. transport. “

According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed sources, 49 flights supposedly to be provided by state-owned Tunisian Airlines planes will be canceled. The administrative body of the Tunisian General Trade Union announced in late May last year the decision to implement the strike in the government sector, after which the sectoral unions launched the task of general mobilization to persuade those involved to participate in the strike and reach a degree wide interaction.

Thursday’s strike covers all vital sectors, as work has stopped in all institutions and facilities related to the presidency and government, as well as service disruptions in the sectors of transport, health, education, equipment, energy, trade, social affairs. , employment, planning. , economy, culture and government media.

The Tunisian General Labor Union takes its strength in negotiating with governments from its weight of unions within government institutions working in vital sectors, while the authority seeks to limit this influence through its measures targeting public sector institutions. The Tunisian General Labor Union held the government of Najla Boden responsible for the general strike in a statement issued by Secretary-General Noureddine Tabboubi on Wednesday.

Al-Taboubi said the strike would be “a protection of their economic and social rights, as the government was slow to respond to their legitimate demands.” He noted that the telegram warning of the strike had been issued since May 31, but the first hearings, which he described as not serious, were held on Monday, June 13. This June, within the Central Reconciliation Committee. The trade union organization added in a statement that the government in the negotiation session that took place on Monday presented with responses that did not suggest a real desire to overcome the strike and find solutions to give positive results in collective negotiations to avoid the country in this. delicate circumstances further tension and ensuring social stability.

The data of the Forum for Economic and Social Rights actually draw the tense socio-economic situation in the country, which speaks of the registration of 734 protest movements in the country during April and 582 movements during last May. Najla Arafa, a member of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, said in a statement to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the statements issued by the forum strongly cross with the description of the Tunisian General Labor Union for the social and economic situation that predicts explosion.

Arafa reported that 42 percent of the protests monitored during May were related to workers’ financial rights and 31 percent were protests against low wages. In a similar context, she stressed that 76 per cent of total protests are of an economic and social nature and 66 per cent are against government sector policies, which are characterized by poor public services and a refusal to implement settlement agreements. for workers with fragile problems. contract.

The Tunisian General Labor Union also criticized the government’s approval of unpopular and unpopular social policies and options, considering that the authority denied workers’ rights with its determination to make them bear the consequences of its elections with the measures it plans undermine the benefits. and withdraw previously signed agreements. In an effort to quell the general strike, the government issued decisions to recruit employees to guarantee a minimum level of services.

Government spokesman Nasr El-Din Al-Nusabi said in a statement to state radio that the authority would use forced labor to provide a minimum level of services to the citizen, explaining that the use of forced labor in Tunisia would not be pari. time, as already used.

The Tunisian Labor Code allows local or central authorities to use forced labor, under which a group of workers is selected to continue performing emergency services during a given strike period. The new Article 389 of the Labor Code of Tunisia regulates the recruitment procedure according to which the enterprise can be employed by order, if a strike or suspension from work is established and launched and this would disrupt the normal functioning of a fundamental interest.

Usually, the authority uses the exploitation mechanism when it enters into a conflict with the Tunisian General Labor Union, as it has approved this mechanism on several occasions. The most important exploitative measure adopted in Tunisia during the events of January 26, 1978, when former President Habib Bourguiba ordered the Tunisian army to run buses and provide transportation services for Tunisians, to break a general strike launched by the union after a dispute with the authority, which ended with the arrest and imprisonment of the trade unionists.

Economics expert Abdul Jalil Al-Badawi said the government is committed to rejecting unions’ demands to satisfy the International Monetary Fund and sending messages to international financial institutions that it will not meet demands for wage increases. In a statement to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Al-Badawi said the main dispute between the executive and the unions was over the wage bloc, as the government insists on curbing the payroll bill and reducing it from 15.2 percent currently to 12 percent. as required by the International Monetary Fund.

The economist said the general strike would not end the dispute between the unions and the authority, as each side seeks to impose a committed fact, stressing that the union will not back down from the demand for wage increases and power improvements. purchasing of exhausted employees with high prices and inflation.

Al-Badawi suggested that the Labor Union would go into other forms of protest after the general strike in the government sector due to the sensitivity of the social situation in the country, rising prices and rampant inflation. The spokesman said that Najla Boden’s government is very interested in its image with the International Monetary Fund and seeks to convince creditors that it is capable of economic reform and its implementation without the need for the approval of social parties.

Tunisia is engaged in tough negotiations with the IMF to get a $ 4 billion loan, but the international institution requires a series of painful reforms, including the abolition of subsidies, the ban on wage increases, the privatization of a number of government institutions facing economic hardship and agreeing with the union party.

Economists estimate the cost of a general strike in the government sector at a value ranging between 200 and 300 million dinars. Tunisians are suffering from a difficult economic situation and rising inflation, which reached 7.8 percent year-on-year last May, from 7.5 percent last April, close to the highest level in 30 years. Earlier this month, the Tunisian government announced its intention to gradually abolish subsidies for fuel, food and electricity, as well as ban employment in the government sectors.

The Presidency of the Government published the terms of the plan, which extends from 2023 to 2026 and includes 43 points that include the reform of subsidies, government institutions, the tax system, digitalization of administrative services. Increasing the price of electricity, and the abolition of food subsidies .

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