lundi 7 novembre 2011

Salary levels and ongoing strikes in Tunisia

There have been numerous strikes in Tunisia since the departure of the ex-president last January. The main reason for the work stoppages is salaries. In Tunisia, the average salary is low but the minimum salary is completely unrealistic when you take into account the cost of living.

Numbers tend to vary depending on the source of statistics but the minimum salary called “smig” is around 200-250 Tunisian dinars per month. Even though the cost of living in Tunisia is lower than in the majority of countries in America or Europe, for many jobs and even professions, the minimum and sometimes the average salary is insufficient and this is even more the case in cities that are popular tourist destinations. The cost for essential items such as food and lodging are disproportionate when compared to the earnings of middle income or poor Tunisians.

The following article of the Business News (in French) presents a portrait of average salaries in different fields in 2010. The list includes mostly good jobs that require, in the majority of cases, a certain level of education. A salary around 800-1000 dinars per month is above average and is considered as being acceptable in spite of the fact that it isn’t really sufficient for an average family with children. On the list, we can note the monthly salaries of police officers (350-400), nurses (500) and teachers (600), which are very low considering their importance in the development of the society.


Recently, two sectors of the economy underwent work stoppages that greatly affected them. First, on Tuesday November 1st, UGTT (Union générale tunisienne du travail), the largest union in the country, decreed a general strike in the tourism sector. The Tunisian federation of hotels and the Tunisian federation of travel agencies expressed their disappointment since “negotiations were underway”. No need to remind anyone that the tourism industry has experienced serious problems following the revolution.

In transportation, a one day strike disrupted train schedules in Sfax on Wednesday November 3rd. Certain workers concerned about not disturbing operations chose to return to work at least until the Aïd el-Adha celebrations on Sunday and Monday. According to the unions, more strikes are probable in the near future.

There is good news from the Technical Transportation Agency (ATTT acronym in French), the organisation which supervises the rules and regulations involving truck transportation in Tunisia. After intense negotiations, the union and the Ministry of transportation came to an agreement putting an end to a three day strike.

Finally, the call to strike in three airports issued by UGTT last Tuesday seems to have been ignored by its members as travel went on as usual. A journalist at the Tunis-Carthage international airport reported that activities weren’t affected in spite of a major increase in traffic due to the beginning of Sunday’s religious holiday Aïd el-Adha.

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