On 3 November 2017, at a meeting at the Ministry for Social Affairs in Tunisia, the employers’ federation of the foundries and mechanical engineering sector signed a sectoral agreement with metalworkers’ union FGME-UGTT and the government that will give workers a back-dated salary increase of 6 per cent for the year 2016. The salary increase for 2017, due to be fixed last July will be fixed in January 2018.
In March 2017, the Head of Government in Tunisia, the President of the employers’ union and the general secretary of the trade union confederation, UGTT, signed a sector-wide agreement to increase salaries. Normally the accord is automatically signed by all the employers’ federations concerned. However, the employers’ federation of foundries and mechanical engineering refused to sign the agreement, which allows for an increase in wages in the private sector in Tunisia for the years 2016 and 2017.
This led FGME-UGTT, to hold a nationwide strike on 26 September 2017, which drew support of 90 per cent of workers in the sector. Following the lack of serious commitment to negotiate on the part of the employers, the union announced it would hold a three-day national strike from 14-16 November unless the employers signed the agreement.
“The most important factor about this struggle is that it has reignited the resolve of our members and encouraged them to carry on fighting for their rights. It’s served as a reminder that if we’re not happy with our company or employers, we can fight to get our rights,” said Tahar Berberi, general secretary of FGME-UGTT, speaking at IndustriALL’s Executive Committee meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“The agreement now needs to be implemented. There are some companies that don’t want to apply the wage increase so we will continue our struggle at the company level but we are in a good position to negotiate with the employers, who don’t want any more problems. The employers now understand that the wage increase is a right.”
Tahar Berberi emphasized that workers need an immediate pay rise, as prices have gone up more than 100 per cent in Tunisia. “We’ve managed to raise salaries for 2016 and 2017. Next we will concentrate on 2018,” he said.