Metro and bus traffic come to a standstill in Tunis as workers go on strike over wages and bonuses.
Subway and bus traffic in the Tunisian capital came to a standstill after employees of the state transport company went on strike due to overdue payment of wages and bonuses.
Monday’s strike highlights the financial woes of listed companies on the brink of bankruptcy as President Kais Saied’s government goes through its worst financial crisis.
“The union is protesting the delay in payment of wages and bonuses,” said Hayat Chamtouri, a spokesman for the company.
“The financial situation in the company is very difficult,” she added.
The transport strike is a show of strength for the powerful UGTT union, which has promised a series of protests.
The union, which has one million members, authorized a two-day strike on January 25 and 26 by air, land and sea transport workers to protest what it called “the government’s marginalization of public companies”.
The strike sparked anger among thousands of people who struggled to find transportation in the capital.
“Today we don’t find any milk, oil, sugar or coffee. Even now we don’t find any buses that take us to work. Tunisia has become an unbearable hell,” says Nejia, a woman waiting at a bus station.
In the poor neighborhood of Intilaka, people blocked roads to protest against the strike. The North African country is struggling with an eye-watering national debt, shortages of goods from sugar to petrol and high inflation.
Tunisia is seeking a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in exchange for unpopular reforms, including austerity, restructuring of public companies and reductions in energy and food subsidies.
Economy minister Samir Saeed said last month that he expects Tunisia to face a difficult year with inflation above 10 percent.
The strike will increase pressure on President Saied’s government, which seized executive power from his opponents 17 months ago. described as a coup.
Tunisia held elections in December to vote in a new parliament, replacing the previous term that Saied suspended in July 2021.
Following Saied’s moves to weaken parliament and seize power, the opposition decided to boycott the vote.
The majority of Tunisians chose to skip voting, with the official attendance at a paltry 11 percent.