After rejecting to participate in a restricted conversation provided by the president as he rewrites the constitution, the powerful Tunisian labour union said on Monday that it would organise a national strike over wages and the economy.
With more than a million members, the UGTT is the most powerful political organisation in Tunisia, and its call for a strike may pose the greatest challenge to President Kais Saied’s one-man rule since his assumption of wide powers.
Saied has prioritised his political agenda since last summer, when he disregarded the Tunisian parliament and the majority of the country’s democratic constitution and declared that he would rule by decree despite the escalating economic crisis.
Opponents of the president accuse him of a coup that has damaged the democratic accomplishments of the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab spring, while he claims his actions were legal and necessary to prevent a protracted political crisis in Tunisia.
The union has requested a substantive national conversation on both political and economic reforms, but it has rejected Saied’s suggestion that it join a limited advisory committee of other civil society organisations that may offer reform proposals.
Saied stated last week that political parties will not be permitted to participate in the drafting of the new constitution, which would replace the 2014 text that resulted from an inclusive debate among Tunisia’s major political factions and social organisations.
Sami Tahri, spokesman for the UGTT, stated, “We reject any formal dialogue in which positions are set unilaterally and civic and political forces are excluded.”
Tahri stated that the date of the strike by UGTT members employed in public services and state corporations will be announced later.
The government of Saied is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout, which is deemed vital to avert national bankruptcy. However, the UGTT has rejected suggested spending cuts in favour of wage hikes for state employees.