Wage negotiations have a particular aspect because they have been centralized; they will also cover a period of one social year only, since in 2012, triennial negotiations will be resumed along with another form of conventional negotiation. The main element in the negotiations between the employers’ organization (UTICA) and the trade union organization UGTT is the increase in salaries, a guarantee of social peace and the cessation of the explosion of demands in various sectors since January 14.
After the fourth meeting of negotiations on wage increases in the private sector that has not yet led to tangible results, Khalil Ghariani, a member of the National Transitional Committee of UTICA reveals the progress and vision of the employers’ organization for the coming period. Interview:
Could you tell us first of the progress made in the negotiations?
The attitude we have adopted, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, is that there will be an increase this year which has a particular character in a particular phase of the country. The goal is to preserve social peace. Now we see that our social partner does not seem, for now, to be in this state of mind, given the nature of some basic demands. It would like to incorporate some principles that never existed before in such negotiations.
Must be emphasized that the wage increases requested under pressure, immediately after the Revolution, may jeopardize the negotiating process itself, both at the sectoral level and in terms of collective agreements.
In terms of wage negotiations, we can come to a suitable agreement. However, we cannot integrate areas that cover employees who are paid off the pay scale, although the UGTT insists that these people also benefit from the negotiations.
The debate remains open for these companies and their employees. There are indeed, for years, companies that pay twice the pay scale and whose staff has claimed nothing. These are companies that have always found the balance between the pay scale and wages paid. If there is an increase, the company will have the option of applying or not applying it. Forcing them to do so, could affect the agreements between employees and employers.
Some find the demands of the UGTT a bit exaggerated. What do you think?
It can be argued, in some ways, that the demands can be considered exaggerated, since they will benefit from an exceptional situation to get elements of rule of thumb when it is not the time. This year’s negotiations take place in a specific situation, where what is needed more is to secure labor peace to better progress more than giving a normal increase.
Indeed, we do not really understand how the UGTT can introduce the elements of principle and insists that the increases for 2011 cover all sectors without exception and that they benefit the majority of workers and agents whatever are the sectors and where they are employed.
On the other hand, it is indecent that there may have been electoral outbidding about the social negotiations. It is indecent and this is not normal. We believe, in this situation which is rather difficult for the country’s stability, that we must, by no means, use and make wages and employment, an object of election outbidding.
In this delicate situation, how do you see the relationship between UTICA and UGTT?
Both sides should move closer to each other especially as the goal is the same today. The objective is help, through agreement, overcome the crisis faced by the country and companies and secure social peace. More than ever, it is important to work hand in hand, and both organizations have historically been able to do it since the independence of Tunisia, and find the best economic, social and political solutions for companies who are the creators of wealth for the country.
We should, both, go in this direction and we are able to do it. We reach out to the UGTT and other national organizations to get out of this crisis. If UTICA had the foresight to accept a pay increase, it shows a commitment by the trade union organization to restore the situation. It is an act of nationalism and we should appreciate things at their fair value and think about the interests of the country.
What are your recommendations to address these challenges?
We are moving towards a new period in the life the country. For this, we must prepare to create jobs, improve the purchasing power and create certain stability at the level of employees. Everyone from his position can and should contribute to the competitiveness of the country. But everyone, employers, businesses and workers, should find this approach worthwhile for the future of our country, a move that should be in the long term.