Tunisia’s powerful union, industry agree wage hike in private sector

Tunisia‘s main labour union and largest industry association agreed on Friday to raise wages for about 1.5 million private sector workers, a step aimed at reducing social tension, restoring investor confidence and reviving the economy.

The announcement of the 6 percent increase came at a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office, after weeks of talks between the private business industry group and the UGTT, a powerful labor union that since the 2011 revolution has on occasion intervened in political matters.

Wided Bouchamoui, the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry known by its French acronym UTICA, said the wage hike came at a delicate time for many local companies looking to increase growth after Islamist militant attacks in 2015 that have hit the economy hard.

“Our role has been to keep an atmosphere of social peace. Today, we need to raise production rates,” she said.

The government has imposed an extra corporate tax on all companies of 7.5 percent as part of plans to raise revenue and reduce its budget deficit, which will reach 4.9 percent this year.

Noureddine Tabboubi, the head of the UGTT union, said that this agreement will help to drive production at a time when the government is looking to revive the economy, which is forecast to grow by 2.5 percent in 2017 from 1 percent in 2015.

Tunisia has been praised as an example of compromise politics and democratic transition since overthrowing former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the first of the Arab Spring revolts, and has held free elections and drafted a new constitution.

But many Tunisians still worry about the rising cost of living, unemployment and the continued marginalization of rural towns, some of the factors that helped fuel the 2011 protests that forced Ben Ali out. (Reporting By Tarek Amara; editing by Patrick Markey)


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