How the Bouden government provoked the UGTT strike

“General strike”, the expression that has shaken the various governments that have followed one another for the past decade. Everyone feared the case and made sure to find common ground with the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT). All organized working meetings and multiplied the proposals to avoid disaster and to maintain in the eyes of the Tunisians and the friendly countries and neighboring countries a semblance of national unity and understanding.

Nevertheless, the government of Najla Bouden chose not to choose the same position. “No negotiations, no reason to maintain this unity and no desire to cooperate”, here is a beautiful slogan that can sum up the attitude taken towards the central trade union. Since its inception, this government, of which some ministers have already largely demonstrated their incompetence, has only multiplied the bad elections and pushed the UGTT in the direction of this strike. We were initially told that there was a close link between the trade union organization and one of the members of the government, that the situation would improve, that the new Tunisia would be synonymous with prosperity, well-being and cohesion.

But as they say: “The dream without action is absurd, the hope without obligation is a mirage”. The government dreamed without implementing actions in favor of a possible collaboration, and UGTT hoped despite the absence of commitment on the part of the Bouden team. These hopes encountered several facts, showing the opposite of all that. At the center of the disagreement was the now very famous Circular 20 on negotiations with trade union structures. This was born on December 9, 2021, two months after the formation of the government. The circular prohibits the opening of negotiations and the conclusion of agreements without consultation and obtaining permission from the Government Presidency. The UGTT vehemently criticized the publication of this text, explaining that all negotiations had been paralyzed. ” Directors, CEOs and other senior officials refuse to talk to us and interact with us at all because of this circular ”Explained several figures from the union center.

UGTT has multiplied calls for the withdrawal of the circular and the opening of negotiations. Result: no reaction from the government! Subsequently, UGTT found itself again with its back to the wall and faced with parachute decisions as a result of secret and closed meetings of our dear government. A slight shock was felt during the presentation of the Finance Act 2022. This was drafted by the government without having consulted the trade union. The latter criticized the case a bit, believing that the text in question did not bring solutions regarding the deterioration of the Tunisians’ economic situation and their purchasing power. Result: no reaction from the government! Then came the terrible shock: the reform program that the government intended to present to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). UGTT expressed its astonishment when it discovered the content of the project – like all citizens – after a leak of the document. The trade union center condemned several elements mentioned in the reform program, but insisted mainly on the breach without any reason for exchange on the part of the government and the preparation of the program without informing it. Still no response from the government!

Faced with the lack of initiative, its exclusion from the drafting of reforms, the rejection of calls for cooperation to save the national economy and the purchasing power of Tunisians, and the refusal to respect social and sectoral measures, the application of which should take place in 2020 and 2021, the professional center had no choice but to announce a general strike in the public sector.

The above elements are of course only part of the problem. The government continued, even after this announcement, to develop its National Reform Program unilaterally. UGTT had not been heard or invited to attend, UGTT’s Deputy Secretary-General, Slaheddine Selmi, had recently confirmed. The latter described a few days later a meeting between the trade center and a government delegation with the aim of canceling the general strike as “Masquerade”.

On that occasion, the government confirmed the lack of coherence and vision. Government delegation really “illustrated ‘” in the art of political amateur art. It turned out that this delegation’s proposals were unacceptable, so they were not transcribed in the minutes of the meeting. The position of the government delegation reflected a lack of seriousness and consistency as its members did not agree with each other. The government delegation initially managed to reach agreement with the UGTT on the cancellation of circular 20 just to reconsider its position and simply change its mind!

This attitude can only annoy the central union, but also the Tunisian citizens who are tired! Tired of the uncertainty and vagueness that the country is sinking into! Tired of parachute decisions affecting their daily lives and their purchasing power; tired of small political quarrels that in no way serve their interests; tired of finding themselves every time under the influence of a government that forces them to suffer the facts and accept them against their will. Citizens expect only one thing: a government at the service of their well-being, economic development, an expression of a sense of belonging. Result: still no reaction from the government …

Sofiene Ghoubantini

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