Romania: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

Strikes on the railways and in manufacturing, protests over public sector pay, and consultations on changes to social dialogue and labour legislation are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Romania in the second quarter of 2017.

Unrest amid tense collective bargaining

The collective agreement for the state-owned national railway company CFR, which has around 23,000 employees, expired at the end of March 2017. When the union and management failed to reach a new agreement within 45 days of negotiations, around 2,000 workers walked out, seriously affecting the rail network. The union had requested a 25% wage increase, with management saying it could not afford a rise of more than 22.5%. Following the spontaneous strike, a new collective agreement, valid for 2017–2018, was concluded at the end of April 2017. However, some workers who protested were sanctioned.

Spontaneous protests also took place in the car manufacturing sector, which accounts for more than one-third of Romania’s exports. In mid-May, hundreds of workers at the Dräxlmaier plant in Satu Mare began a protest, mainly about low wages. The protests stopped when, after discussions with a German delegate of the company, workers were given a bonus of RON 10 (€2.18 as at 10 July 2017) for each Saturday worked.

Low wages also triggered spontaneous protests at the Bistrita plant of German cable and wire manufacturer Leoni on 10 May, the day a collective agreement was concluded between the representative company trade union and the management. Despite the agreement’s wage increases, around 200 dissatisfied workers went on strike for two days. The number of protesters swelled to around 1,000 workers, but ended with the dismissal of some of the protesters and wage-cuts for others. Politicians and unions described the company’s decision as ‘unfair’ and ‘abusive’.

Protests on public sector pay 

At the end of May, public sector employees protested over the provisions of the draft law on unitary pay while the law was being debated in the Chamber of Deputies. The protests were organised in Bucharest and other cities by employees in public administration, local police, and social assistance. In addition, employees from the education sector planned a national strike in mid-June, but the trade unions only managed to collect approval from 45.6% of their members (the law requires a minimum of 50% backing by union members to initiate a strike).

Consultations on revision of labour, social dialogue legislation 

The Labour Law (53/2003) and the Social Dialogue Act 62/2011 (PDF) are being revised again, after being amended in 2011 as part of an attempt to have more flexible labour relations.

Proposals for the amendment of the Labour Code, which includes measures aimed at curbing undeclared work (PDF) have been made available for public debate. The draft amendment also aims to clarify the concept of undeclared work, defining, for the first time, the concept (so far used only in academic literature) and to lay down new sanctions for its use. The draft law also assimilates some solutions given by the High Court of Cassation and Justice in areas where Romanian courts had used a non-unitary practice.

Consultations with social partners for amending social dialogue legislation are also ongoing. Gabriel Petrea, Minister of Public Consultation and Social Dialogue, stated that the government intends to return to some provisions in force before 2011, which allowed collective agreements at sectoral level. Currently, the law allows for such agreements only if both social partners have at least 50% of the sector’s employees as members, a condition which is unreachable for most of the existing federations. As a result, no collective agreement at sectoral level has been concluded since the 2011 legislative reform, with Minister Petrea saying employer organisations oppose the revision.

Commentary

Although an internal power struggle has meant that the outgoing economy minister Mihai Tudose was suddenly appointed prime minister in June, the plans for amending the Social Dialogue Act are not expected to be affected and consultations with social partners will continue. It is not clear whether an agreement between employer organisations and trade unions will be reached.

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