The government of Tunisia and the country’s two largest trade unions agreed on Friday to begin negotiations on Monday over economic reforms needed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout program. According to a government announcement, Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labor union leader Noureddine Taboubi, and UTICA commerce union leader Samir Majoul reached a “social contract” to address pressing national issues. On its Facebook page, the UGTT republished the statement.
The labor union, which speaks for a sizable group of workers, has been a vocal opponent of the government’s proposed IMF economic reforms, which include cutting subsidies, freezing public sector wages, and reorganizing state-owned businesses. As previously stated, such measures will make Tunisians suffer more and cause a rapid societal collapse. Due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, Tunisia is asking the IMF for $4 billion in assistance. However, diplomat sources said that any IMF program approved would probably not reach that amount. The UGTT, a powerful union with a million members that have previously shut down portions of the economy in protest, is being pressured by the IMF to publicly accept government measures.
The political unrest in Tunisia that has occurred since President Kais Saied took the majority of the country’s power a year ago, closing down parliament and establishing rule by decree, has made it more difficult to obtain the IMF bailout. He pushed through a new constitution last month that formalized many of the newfound powers he had won in a referendum. Official statistics claimed that 31% of Tunisians participated, however, opposition organizations have disputed this estimate and called it overstated.