Dialogue would remain 'open' until July, government sources said
Tunis – Azhar Jarboui
A strike led by the Tunisian General Labour Union [UGTT] and other teachers’ syndicates enters its second day today, in an industrial dispute demanding a “difficulty allowance” which would add
an estimated $170m to the national budget.The General Syndicate for Secondary Education's dispute has continued for a second day running as Education Minister Abdellatif Abid threatened to dock striking workers pay. He called on workers to display some “understanding” of Tunisia’s current economic situation, dismissing demands as “outrageous wage rises.”
Abdellatif claimed his Ministry had agreed to the Syndicate’s previous demands to the tune of $40m, but that it was unable to agree to a difficulty allowance or doubling promotion compensation.
Responding to remarks made by union bosses who called the strike “92 percent successful,” Abid said: “There is no such thing as a successful strike. Boasting about the success of the strike indicates hidden agendas behind labour concerns."
Syndicate chief Lasâad Yacoubi has claimed government intimidation has mired the dispute. "The secret police has made a strong comeback at educational institutions,” he said, claiming security forces had threatened headmasters and demanded a list of names of those currently on strike.
The latest dispute relates to a “difficulty allowance,” demanded by strikers to assist Tunisia’s 81,000 secondary school educators. The allowance, plus doubled compensation for job promotions, would add a total of 241m dinars to Tunisia’s national expenditure, representing around one percent of the total state budget value.
The Education Ministry meanwhile said dialogue remains “open” between the government and strikers, offering a July deadline for negotiations.
The government expressed its “sadness” concerning the strike, adding that the demands were "excessive." Tunisia's unemployed were "much more in need" now, it said, “rather than thinking of rises for those who already enjoy labour rights in full.”
The strike represents another major industrial dispute despite union and government officials signing the Social Charter on January 14, the second anniversary of the Tunisian revolution. The agreement aimed at improving relations between state and labour organisations.
A number of teachers at a middle school in Rouhia in the northern province of Siliana have also staged a protest vigil demanding improvements to drinking water supplies. Demonstrators also demanded the government provide transport for teachers and pupils because of the region’s difficult terrain.
Tunisia’s education system continues to suffer disruption and damage, with teachers demanding better infrastructure and improvements to educational establishments nationwide.
A fire has engulfed a hall of residence attached to a secondary-level institute in Bou Salem in the northern Tunisian province of Jendouba. The fire caused classes to be suspended and left the building and its contents seriously damaged. Two students received minor burns to their hands.
Preliminary investigations indicated an electric fire had caused the blaze.