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Understanding living wages

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29 May, 2024On 7-8 May, IndustriALL hosted a training workshop in Tunis, focusing on living wages and collective bargaining for unions representing Swedish companies in Tunisia's textile and garment sector. This initiative, conducted in collaboration with the Fédération Générale du Textile, de l'Habillement, Chaussure et Cuir (FGTHCC-UGTT), brought together approximately 20 unionists from companies like Autoliv, Sancella, and Alva.

The workshop began by clarifying the concept of a living wage and distinguishing it from the minimum wage. Participants were trained to develop strategic actions to elevate minimum wages to match living wages at the company level.

A presentation of Autoliv's union strategy showcased their transition from minimum to living wages. Autoliv, employing over 5,000 workers at its factories in Fahs and Nador, has set a precedent by signing the only enterprise-level collective bargaining agreement in Tunisia's textile and garment sector.

An outcome of the workshop was the formulation of a preliminary strategy on living wages, aligning with FGTHCC-UGTT's trade union strategy, which prioritizes living wages until 2030. The living wage is seen as a cornerstone for improving workers' conditions and ensuring fair compensation.

Martin Jefflén, international secretary at Swedish union Unionen, highlighted the importance of international cooperation.

"We came to here to learn from the Tunisian experience, to exchange experiences and expertise and to discuss ways to support. We are keen to ensure that decent work conditions are respected in Swedish companies in Tunisia. The mission of the Swedish unions is to improve the situation of workers not only in Sweden but in other countries, especially within Swedish multinationals and their supply chain."

Mongi Smaali, an economics professor at the University of Tunisia, provided a critical insight, noting that the living wage for a family of four in Tunisia should be at least 1,850 dinars (US$617). This figure underscores the significant gap between current wages and what is needed for a decent standard of living.

Habib Al-Hazami, FGTHCC-UGTT general secretary, emphasised the importance of international trade union solidarity.

"This workshop is an opportunity to establish strong ties with the Swedish unions, which is vital for serving the interests of workers."

Ahmed Kamel, IndustriALL MENA regional secretary, praised FGTHCC-UGTT's action plan on living wages and emphasised the need for collective efforts.

The workshop, supported by IndustriALL's Swedish affiliates and Union to Union, represents a significant step towards achieving fair wages and improving working conditions for employees of Swedish multinationals in Tunisia.