Large-scale trade union merger plan

At the end of August 2006, an agreement was drawn up to merge four of the five nationally representative trade union confederations in Romania. Other trade union organisations were invited to sign the agreement, including federations not affiliated to any of the five national confederation structures. The new organisation, which is currently at the negotiation stage, would eventually be renamed the General Labour Confederation.

Representative trade union organisations

Currently in Romania, according to the legislation in force, the following five trade union confederations meet national representativeness criteria and have the right to engage in collective bargaining, namely the:

  • National Confederation of Free Trade Union Fraternity of Romania (Confederatia Nationala a Sindicatelor Libere din România Fratia, CNSLR Fratia);
  • National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul National Sindical, BNS);
  • Confederation of Democratic Trade Unions in Romania (Confederatia Sindicatelor Democratice din România, CSDR);
  • National Trade Union Confederation ‘Cartel Alfa’ (Confederatia Nationala Sindicala ‘Cartel Alfa’, Cartel Alfa);
  • National Trade Union Confederation ‘Meridian’ (Confederatia Sindicala Nationala Meridian, CSN Meridian).

Previous merger attempts

In April 2004, a previous attempt to merge the organisations was made during a press conference organised by BNS. After an extraordinary session of the national council, BNS representatives invited the other nationally representative trade union organisations to join the discussions on the possible merger (RO0406102F).

The only organisation that responded to the invitation was CNSLR Fratia. In August 2004, the two representative trade union confederations made public their decision to merge, leaving only a few technical details to be finally agreed by October 2004. These details related to the name of the new organisation, management structure and internal organisation of the new organisation, among other items (RO0409101N).

However, on 12 October 2004, only three days before the merger congress, BNS and CNSLR Fratia announced their decision to extend the unification process until 2005 (RO0411101N), primarily due to legal reasons.

Merger proposal

At the end of August 2006, a draft programme was drawn up for the merger of four of the five nationally representative trade union confederations: CNSLR Fratia, BNS, CSDR and CSN Meridian. Other trade union organisations were invited to sign the agreement, including federations not affiliated to any of the five national confederative structures.

The draft agreement together with the statute of the new organisation was made available on the website of CSN Meridian on 27 September 2006; it was due to be discussed in the National Council in October 2006.

Grounds for merger

Reasons for the planned merger include the following:

  • the complex economic situation of Romanian society, including the socioeconomic context, living standards of the population and the extremely divided trade union movement;
  • the belief that a strong trade union is one of the pillars of democracy;
  • the solidarity of employees and other social categories as the main way of protecting against a deterioration in living standards (RO0606019I);
  • the decision of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (CMT-WCL) to establish a single trade union confederation at international level.

Structure of new organisation

Discussions are ongoing regarding the new structure of the union confederation once merged, which would probably be renamed the General Labour Confederation (Confederatia Generala a Muncii, CGM).

As the representative of CNSLR Fratia, BNS and CSDR, the organisation will assume all the rights and obligations linked to membership of the international trade union structures ICFTU, CMT-WCL, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and Global Unions. The merger of the four confederations will also be accomplished at regional level.

The management of the new organisation will include a standing committee, an executive committee, a management board and a national council. By joint agreement, the presidency and secretary general positions in the new organisation would be assigned to CNSLR Fratia, the executive presidency would most likely be taken by CSDR and the presidency of the National Council would go to CSN Meridian. BNS will appoint the main vice-president, who will have the support of six executive vice-presidents, two of whom will come from the Atlas Federation Trade Union (Uniunea Federativa Sindicala Atlas, UFS Atlas).

Such a merger will reunite employees in the oil, gas, electric, hydro-thermal and nuclear power, and telecommunications sectors, as well as journalists, lawyers, transporters, workers in the chemical-petrochemical sector and public services. Moreover, the property of CGM will be the joint legacy of the member confederations. The merger congress is planned for 1 December 2006.

Commentary

The merger of the trade union movement is in itself a remarkable act in terms of the potential power of the future structure of the organisation. Its strength could become an incentive for other trade union organisations to join the group.

So far, Cartel Alfa, the fifth nationally representative trade union confederation, has not publicised its opinion and intentions regarding this planned merger. It could be that the property issue will have an effect on its decision.

Luminita Chivu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

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