Noureddine Taboubi, Secretary-General, Tunisian General Labour Union (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT): Interview

Noureddine Taboubi, Secretary-General, Tunisian General Labour Union (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT)

Interview: Noureddine Taboubi

To what extent is it important for the UGTT to work towards the success of the Carthage Agreement?

NOUREDDINE TABOUBI: The UGTT focuses a lot of its attention on matters related to regional development and other social issues. When looking at the Carthage Agreement, the vast majority of its objectives were inspired by the UGTT’s own goals and development plans. For example, the agreement, as well as the 2017 Finance Law, includes objectives related to tax reform and fair taxation — issues that the UGTT has long advocated for. Given the overlap between the agreement’s stated goals and the UGTT’s priorities, the UGTT will naturally work towards the agreement’s success.

What barriers are facing the implementation of new laws and policies, such as the Carthage Agreement?

TABOUBI: The UGTT has asked government ministers to report on the progress of the implementation of laws and initiatives, such as the Carthage Agreement and the 2017 Finance Law. The success of the agreement, however, may face some obstacles, such as those related to monitoring. In particular, the lack of information and transparency may hinder realisation.

The government is still catching up to international democratic norms regarding transparency. For example, not enough information concerning corporate taxation is published. The UGTT has requested an audit of public finances and information regarding the amount of taxes paid by sectors of the economy as well as information regarding the foreign transactions of the central bank. Other challenges may relate to implementation. The government has changed six times since 2011, which has made it difficult for government officials to develop the competence necessary to implement policy.

What is the status of labour dialogue in Tunisia?

TABOUBI: The UGTT, the Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat, UTICA), and the government have signed a social contract, which has established the following areas of cooperation: economic growth and regional development; social protection; employment and professional training; and labour relations.

Progress in these areas will largely depend on maintaining a dialogue among the UGTT, UTICA and the government, which is why the creation and success of the National Council for Social Dialogue is important. The council will ensure ongoing discussions among these actors, and serve as a go-to reference for all future bills related to labour and social issues.

How should Tunisia address youth unemployment?

TABOUBI: Addressing youth unemployment will require an understanding that the solutions for university and non-university graduates will differ. For example, many university graduates have been unemployed for extended periods of time, which is why reintroducing them into the workforce will require training, especially for those who graduated with degrees in the humanities. All of Tunisia’s unemployed youth can benefit from embracing entrepreneurship and the idea that they can create their own jobs, which will require improving their access to financing. The idea is to guide youth into useful sectors of the economy.

Similarly, all unemployed youth would benefit from a national push to ensure equal opportunities. Students in Tunisia’s various regions do not have access to the same opportunities due to a number of factors ranging from inadequate air conditioning to differences in the quantity and quality of teachers. Ensuring equal opportunities will require taxpayer-funded programmes to provide schools with the necessary resources.

It is wrong that the government has left preschool education completely in the hands of the private sector, as it has made education at this level inaccessible to many, and nearly impossible for those in rural areas. Education is no longer a reliable force for upward social mobility, largely due to increasing inequality.

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Noureddine Taboubi

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The Report: Tunisia 2017

Economy chapter from The Report: Tunisia 2017