The meeting that was to be held on Friday 19 August between the government presidency and the management of the vocational center was not held. The day before, the government had requested his eviction without the door. Speculations have been heard here and there, some of the most eccentric, to try to explain this surprising postponement of this long-awaited meeting. But in everyone’s mind it was clear that the President of the Republic was behind this decision. Having crushed the parliament, the parties, the political class, the constitutional authorities, the public sector media and even the judiciary, Kaïs Saïed cannot now tolerate the presence of a strong UGTT independent of its authority and playing the role of counterbalance to his absolute. personal power.
It was clear from the beginning that the UGTT’s relationship with Najla Bouden’s government was sluggish for objective reasons and others that are less so. Contact between the two parties could only be resumed on 12 August thanks to mediation by the International Labor Organisation. The economic situation in the country is certainly catastrophic. The social situation is desolate. The government’s hands and feet are practically tied. The union leadership was aware of these difficulties and had even announced its desire to find negotiated solutions to all issues in order to preserve the social peace already weakened by an exuberant political context. But for the workers’ union, it was impossible to accept the government’s position on three essential points.
The first point concerns the principle of the continuity of the state. This principle must be constant in the country as well as in Tunisia’s international relations. It must not be questioned with the social partners about the old agreements made with the previous governments, whereas it is used carefully when it comes to paying the maturity of the debt, even if it means that the funds are scraped out of the coffers. List and leave in port for several days, cargo ships with basic necessities due to lack of financial liquidity.
The second point concerns Circular Note No. 20, which prohibits ministries and public companies from entering into negotiations with their trade unions without prior consent from the Prime Minister’s Office. In addition to its draconian and anti-democratic nature, this circular note is a clear violation of international conventions on social dialogue and trade union rights ratified by Tunisia. Above all, it endangers social peace.
Finally, the third point concerns the government’s position on the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the government gives the impression of being a diligent student of the IMF, wanting to apply its recommendations and instructions to the letter to the detriment of the popular classes of society. But since this government has no popular base and is not the result of any vote, it has nothing to do with the resentment of the popular strata or even from the people. His only counterpart is the President of the Republic.
The latter is currently careful to address the social or economic issue. But it is inconceivable that he is unaware of or does not support the positions and decisions of his government. This is why the social and economic conflict is actually between the UGTT and Kaïs Saïed, as the government is a simple fuse that will blow at the first opportunity. This conflict is inevitable because the President of the Republic needs it to establish definitively, without sharing his power, while the UGTT will be forced to enter into this conflict that has been forced upon it.
Since the modus operandi of the President of the Republic is static and unchanging, the stages of the conflict between Kaïs Saïed and the UGTT are predictable. He started by declaring his desire to rework the national dialogue not on the basis of sectoral interests, but on the basis of the national interest, that is, global and centralized social negotiations, which reset the trade union structures to the role of extras between or fundamental. . Then there will be the reactivation of the complaint against the current union leadership challenging the legitimacy of the last congress of the UGTT. There will also be the high-profile build-up of corruption cases against a few bad apples in the union world, there are bound to be some, to discredit unionists and give the central union the image of an organization of thugs. Finally and of course there will be a suspension of the direct contribution from public servants.
All these maneuvers have already been used against the UGTT in the past. In the 1980s, the state even sponsored a trade union. There is nothing to suggest that the current approach of Kaïs Saïed will meet a better fate.