“Negotiated agreements do not negate the increases” obtained directly with companies, affirms, in this regard, Secretary General of the UGTT Houcine Abassi.
Long before, the SG of the UGTT had met the Tunisian Prime Minister. The UGTT Chief complained of the interventionism of some members of the Government, in union activity.
In an interview he gave to us, Houcine Abassi confirmed this fact, without wanting to give more details. With the Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labor Union, we also talked about his last meeting with the prime minister and the social movements.
– AM: You have just signed, directly, a first, wage increase agreement with the Tunisian Federation of Hotels. Is this augurs of a new method of negotiation with employers in general?
Houcine Abassi: This direct way of negotiation, which appears now as a first in itself, is really what needs to be done. The negotiation must take place directly between concerned social sides. The third part [State] steps in only when the need arises to consult it, or when, God forbid, there is a problem and that negotiation becomes difficult and threatens to become a danger to the country. It is at that moment that we could turn to the third side for arbitration.
– AM: Do this agreement with the FTH and agreements that may be signed subsequently with other employers’ sides, cancel the previous increases signed directly with some business leaders under the pressure of strikes and sit-ins?
-H.A: These new wage increases do not negate what has been already acquired. The agreement with the FTH contains an article which clearly states that, unless it was stipulated in the first agreement that the increase was an advance.
– AM: Has your last meeting with Prime Minister Hamadi Jbali helped overcome the crisis between the government of Ennahdha and UGTT?
H.A: We are going through difficulties in our relations with the Government. What we had recently recorded were planned assaults. And, those who attacked us were not the government, but political parties. It was therefore natural that we deal with these issues, making the separation between the government and these parties. We spoke with him, not as a representative of a political party, but as prime minister of all Tunisians
– AM: Have you agreed on something?
HA: We have not signed anything, we just discussed political issues and political matters, and we agreed on the establishment of [monitoring] commissions. Some have already been created, others will follow and negotiations should start next Thursday.
– AM: It was reported that the UGTT SG would have complained of the interventionism of government members in union affairs. Is this true and what was it about?
HA: We have indeed experienced some difficulties with the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Employment and the Ministry of Industry, but we are on track to melt the ice with these departments and we hope that things will not develop more than that, negotiation will resume, relations will be transparent and that those who want to be active partners of the UGTT, do it directly with the UGTT and do not resort to devious means on which we drew attention and against which we begin to fight. We hope that this fight would not go further.
– AM: We note that social movements have intensified in recent months. Twenty three strikes announced in March and 60 notices of strikes and social services refer to a total of 118 notices for the month of March.
HA: If you review the number of strikes for the year 2011, before the Revolution that toppled the dictatorship, you will realize that the number of strikes and sit-ins exceeded the figures you mentioned. In recent months, we recorded a rate of strikes and sit-ins lower than those of 2009 and 2010 where they were much higher.