TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union has called a national public strike for June after the government refused to increase wages, an escalation that may hinder the government’s efforts to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The move by the UGTT comes as Tunisia is seeking a $4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund seen as necessary to avoid bankruptcy.
In return, President Kais Saeid is required to implement unpopular reforms, including cuts in energy and food subsidies and wage freezes.
The UGTT, which is Tunisia’s most powerful political force with over 1 million members, has rejected proposed spending cuts and instead wants wage increases for state workers.
The union said the strike would include 159 state-owned companies including airlines and maritime and land transport firms.
The UGTT wants an immediate reform plan for companies that does not include selling them.
Public companies are facing a major financial crisis which involves billions of dollars because of mounting losses, debts and increases in the number of employees.
The strike on June 16 will present the biggest challenge yet to Saeid, who has already been facing a political crisis for a year now.
The opposition accuses the president, who suspended the parliament and assumed broad powers in June 2021, of having orchestrated a coup.
Saeid has since promised to replace the democratic 2014 constitution with a new constitution via referendum on July 25.
However, critics argue he does not pay enough attention to the North African country’s collapsing economy as inflation reached a record level of 7.5% in April.
Tunisia’s budget deficit will expand to 9.7% of GDP this year, in comparison to a previously expected 6.7%, due to a stronger US dollar and sharp rise in grain and energy prices, the central bank governor, Marouan Abassi, said this month.