More on Labor and Employment in Tunisia

I’ve written previously about how Tunisian labor unrest is a key risk to Ennahdha (see here and here). Two stories today suggest that problem isn’t going away, with demonstrations in Sousse and the government admitting that there are too many public sector workers.

Tunisia Live reports today of a large demonstration in Tunisia’s second city, Sousse.

A demonstration in support of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) was held today in Sousse, a city located in the central-eastern coast of Tunisia. Nearly a thousand protesters were holding up signs and chanting slogans in a massive show of solidarity with the union. The protesters directed their ire against the government and particularly Ennahdha – the dominant, Islamist party in the ruling tripartite coalition.

Today’s protest was in large part a reaction to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s recent controversial remarks on last Saturday’s UGTT-led demonstrations condemning  a series of vandalistic acts against several of its offices.

Jebali stated earlier this week that “Ben Ali militias” – eager to see the new government fail – had infiltrated last week’s protests.  According to the Prime Minister, “businessmen” from Sousse and “Ben Ali militias” had coordinated their efforts and transported supporters by bus from the coast to Tunis in order to disrupt public order.

Meanwhile, Tunisie Numerique reports the Tunisian minister for administrative reform called for transparent recruitment into the civil service, while admitting that there are too many public sector workers.

Mohamed Abou,  Minister for Administrative Reform, said that the public sector can not absorb all the 750,000 unemployed Tunisians, underlining the government’s commitment that all competitive recruitment processes transparent and neutral.

…Mohamed Abou said that 580,000 public servants work in the public sector, a number greater needs of the Tunisian administration. He said that in the future promotions will no longer be more based on political party allegiance or nepotism, but according to a new system, primarily on a competitive basis.

The article goes on to talk (obliquely) about the corruption rackets common on Tunisian work sites:

Regarding the issue of workers’ sites, the Minister stressed that while 57 000 workers was the number provided to the Department, in 2010, the actual number does not exceed 16 000 workers.

Journalist Eileen Byrne “broke” the story of these worker sites last month in an excellent article in the Guardian.

Around 18,000 people are now estimated to be registered in chantiers across the Kasserine region. They are each paid about 250 dinars ($166) a month out of public funds. Corrupt foremen handing out the wages take upwards of 50 dinars ($33) off each person, local people confirm. If the worker stays at home, the foreman may skim as much as 100 dinars ($66) off the pay packet, and he also pads out the payroll with non-existent workers.

Government recognition of these problems is one thing, but amid growing labor unrest, they may prove difficult problems to solve.

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