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Tunisian union calls national strike, rejects president Saied’s move

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Tunisia’s powerful labor union said on Monday it would hold a national strike over wages and the economy after refusing to take part in a limited dialogue proposed by the president as he rewrites the constitution.

With more than a million members, the UGTT is Tunisia’s most powerful political force and its call for a strike may present the biggest challenge yet to President Kais Saied after his seizure of broad powers and moves to one-man rule.

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The president’s opponents accuse him of a coup that has undermined the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab spring, but he says his moves were legal and needed to save Tunisia from a prolonged political crisis.

The union has demanded a meaningful national dialogue on both political and economic reforms, but it rejected Saied’s proposal that it join a small advisory group of other civil society organizations that could submit reform ideas.

Saied said last week that political parties would be barred from a role in forming the new constitution, which would replace the 2014 document that emerged from an inclusive debate among Tunisia’s main political factions and social organizations.

“We reject any formal dialogue in which roles are determined unilaterally and from which civil and political forces are excluded,” UGTT spokesperson Sami Tahri said.

The date of the strike, by UGTT members working in public services and state companies, will be announced later, Tahri said.

Saied’s government is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout, seen as necessary to ward off national bankruptcy, but the UGTT has rejected proposed spending cuts and instead wants wage increases for state workers.

Read more: Tunisia economy grows by 2.4 pct in Q1 2022

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