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Tunis: ‘’Good results are expected from social negotiations in a short time,’’ says Ahmed Ammar Younbai

Ahmed Ammar Younbai, Minister of Social Affairs has assured that the social climate continues to improve especially with the green light from the government to launch wage negotiations, noting that 98 agreements were signed recently, including 57 in the public sector.

The Minister also said that the appointment of Mohamed Ennaceur at the head of the parliament will definitely help create a climate of appeasement.

Interview: Can you give us an assessment of the social climate during the 11 months of the year?

There is an appeasement reflected in the number of strikes that has dropped significantly in November. This downward trend has continued at the same level during this month. This is the same for notice of strikes and sit-ins.

This demonstrates that there is a lull, already evidenced by the government’s position regarding social bargaining in the public service.

Another factor that has contributed much to this calm is the announcement of a new round of negotiations in this area following the request made by all political forces to the government. This request was made during the discussions on the 2015 finance law in the House of People’s Representatives.

We can assure that there are negotiations that will be implemented soon so that the official announcement of the opening of wage negotiations in the public sector will be made very soon.

What will be expected?

I foresee a mutual understanding between the UGTT that would take into account the current economic situation and the government’s interest to complete these negotiations as soon as possible.

We are therefore entitled to expect good results in a short time especially since there are many positive signs.

What is you opinion about the social climate in 2015?

I guess there will be issues in industrial relations. I will cite dignified work, the Mechanism 16, religious executives and other areas such as construction sites. These issues are, in my opinion, the most burning issues, all the more so that the UGTT remains committed to ending any work that is not worthy. Other files will also be in the agenda of the future government, including the issue of social protection and security and also the situation of social funds.

In this context, can you give us the latest figures on the situation of funds?

Our forecast proved accurate since we estimated a deficit of around 400MTD in 2014. This figure has already dropped to 300MTD.

But how?

We have recovered arrears of CNAM insurers who exceeded the annual limit for reimbursement of expenses. The second operation relates to the order of the Ministry of Social Affairs about the exemption of the principal of the debt. These two operations would enable us to recover 100MTD.

For 2015, the deficit of the social funds, according to our forecasts, would be around 700MTD, knowing that some of this deficit would decline since 173MTD will be recovered on debts of public enterprises vis-à-vis the CNRPS particularly transport companies.

The efforts are commendable, but much remains to be done especially that these are not radical solutions to reduce this deficit.

What about the unique identifier?

We have an almost done unique identifier, especially as the technical part of this operation is completed.

I remind you that the purpose of this identifier is to direct the subsidy. Today, households are known and we have a database. The next step is to know the families who really need the subsidy.

It is a political decision and no government could take it without consultations with the social partners and members of civil society. It is important to involve all stakeholders because it is a national decision.

In this context, I assure you that the government in place and the Ministry of Social Affairs have done a historical work showing that the realization of a unique identifier is a possible thing.

What is the number of families in need of subsidy?

I do not know, and as I mentioned at the beginning, this is a national decision that no government could take alone.

What about the consultations between the Ministry and the National dialysis Chamber which recently issued a notice of closure of dialysis clinics scheduled for January 1, 2015, seeking an increase in the rates of dialysis sessions?

We were surprised by the decision of the chamber. It was a unilateral decision especially as the Chamber has published a press release announcing the increase by 63 dinars of expenses per dialysis session.

It is for this reason that we sent a letter to the chamber on the severity of the execution of this decision since the rates have been fixed since 1977 by several ministries. Therefore, it is illogical to make such a decision unilaterally.

Similarly, it was recalled that patients may not have to bear these rates. So imposing a significant portion of these charges on patients is illegal. It was stressed that in return we are willing to work as part of a joint commission, dialysis centers and clinics, the UGTT, UTICA and experts to prepare an urgent study with the objective of determining the actual rates of dialysis sessions, knowing that my department and CNAM are ready to cooperate seriously with regard to the new rates…

I think that the Chamber would accept this step so that we can begin work immediately as part of the commission. Completion of this work is possible within three months. Moreover, we have presented a relevant project to the UTICA and UGTT.

Let us talk about the CNAM which has decided to transfer systematically insured persons who exceed the maximum annual reimbursement of medical costs, i.e. 200 dinars from the private sector to the public sector. This has sparked an outcry among affiliates as much as in the Consumer Protection Organisation (ODC). Is there something new in this area?

The file was regularized definitively especially since we have reassured our affiliates, telling them that it is impossible to migrate from the private sector to the public sector because it is illegal. On another level, we called them to regularize their situation as it is a debt to the fund.

Moreover, we said we were willing to consider the social situation of all insured through the repayment of these debts on schedule.

The operation was a success on the field since over 80% of our insurers have regularized their situation. To date, we have successfully recovered 18MTD.

Returning to the Mechanism 16, an issue which has been much publicized and ended with the recent signing of an agreement between the government and the UGTT. Can you clarify?

The beneficiaries of the Mechanism 16 are a priori about 22,000 people. An agreement has already been reached between the Government and the UGTT to regularize the situation of all beneficiaries, without exception, and on steps.

This operation will take place over 5 years. The first year will affect 6,000 including 1760 university graduates selected according to well defined criteria by the UGTT while the other years will concern 4,000.

What is the number of agreements signed in 2014?

In the public sector, 47 agreements were signed between the government and the UGTT since they have not been implemented during the last three years. It should be noted that these agreements will have a financial impact in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Moreover, the cost in 2014 was consolidated. This means that all signed agreements were consolidated. This is important especially for the credibility of negotiations of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

In the private sector, 51 agreements were signed, most of which involve wage increases. Besides, 22 agreements were published in the Official Gazette while 13 are ongoing.

What about the budget of the Ministry of Social Affairs for the year 2015?

I think the budget of the Ministry poses no problem. However, I assure you that a change was recorded in the budget for the social program. This is actually explained by the rise in the number of needy families to 250,000 from 235,000 in the past.

For the budget in general, a decrease was registered under 2015 compared to the previous year from 766MTD 732MTD.

As a former social affairs minister, do you think that the appointment of Mohamed Ennaceur at the head of the new parliament will help ease the country?

Of course yes. Mohamed Ennaceur, in my opinion, is the pioneer of the social sector in Tunisia. This is really an achievement for the sector, but also for the whole country, and this thanks to a rich experience and important intellectual level. These strengths will certainly contribute to a stable climate by finding adequate solutions to all problems.



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