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Major Tunisian union to protest privatisation plans: official

Tunisians attend speech of UGTT labour union leader [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2018

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The head of Tunisia's powerful UGTT union said it would stage protests if the government carries out controversial privatisation programmes.

Tunisia's UGTT labour union said on Saturday it will organise protests if the government carries out privatisation programmes, Reuters reported.

The labour union's comments follow Prime Minister Youssef Chahed saying on Friday to parliament that he wanted to restructure and potentially sell money-losing public companies. 

During a rally in the coastal town of Sousse, UGTT chief Noureddine Taboubi said the union is ready for a showdown with Chahed's government. 

"The sale of public companies is a red line and we will deal with this dangerous plan," he said.

"We will organise large workers' gatherings in all regions of the country culminating with a large protest in the capital," Taboubi added, without specifying when such protests would take place.

Tunisia, often hailed as the Arab Spring's only success story, is grappling with a number of economic crises.

Foreign donors have been urging the country to cut its public sector costs and reduce or eliminate its budget deficit. But the public sector is a key source of employment for many Tunisians in a country where joblessness, particularly among youth, remains high.

In recent months, there has been an uptick in tourism revenue as travellers increasingly return to the country - Tunisia has avoided any serious militant attack since 2015.

However, investors have been comparatively slow to return to Tunisia. The North African country has experienced frequent turmoil since the 2011 uprising toppled strongman Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. 

Protesters have in recent months returned to Tunisia's streets to demonstrate against cost-cutting measures introduced during the government's 2018 budget.

The IMF has been accused of demanding Tunisia commit to austerity measures - a charge the fund denies.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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