BNS and CNSLR Frăţia merger plan postponed

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In October 2004, shortly before the date set for a joint merger congress, the National Trade Union Bloc (BNS) and the National Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Romania Brotherhood (CNSLR Frăţia) - two of Romania's five nationally representative trade union confederations - announced a decision to postpone their unification until 2005..

Under the terms of declaration issued in August 2004 (RO0409101N), two of Romania's five nationally representative trade union confederations (RO0307101F) - the National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul Naţional Sindical, BNS), and the National Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Romania Brotherhood (Confederaţia Naţională a Sindicatelor Libere din România Frăţia, CNSLR Frăţia) - are due to merge. The issue seemed settled, with only a few technical details left to sort out - the name of the new organisation, the management structure, internal organisation etc. Both confederations repeatedly declared that they remained steadfast in their decision to continue rapidly with the merger process .

On 30 September 2004, for the first time in the history of the two organisations, the boards of BNS and CNSLR Frăţia held a joint meeting to approve the agreement underpinning the new confederation, to be named the National Trade Union Bloc Brotherhood (Blocul Naţional Sindical Frăţia). On the same occasion, the date of 14 October 2004 was set for the document to be ratified by the extraordinary congress of BNS ( RO0312101N) and the ordinary congress of CNSLR Frăţia. A joint merger congress was to have taken place on 15 October, creating a union confederation with over 1 million members.

In the meantime, the press voiced a number of doubts over the prospects of the merger, stressing the divergent political alliances forged by the two confederations in view of the general elections due at the end of November 2004: CNSLR Fratia with the governing Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD); and BNS with the Great Romania Party (Partidul România Mare, PRM). This latter arrangement in particular made the headlines, as PRM is accused of having extremist tendencies. Speculations were also fuelled by the opinions expressed by some representatives of the US Embassy in Bucharest, who declared they were 'disappointed' by the cooperation between BNS and PRM. Nevertheless, BNS reiterated that it would not put an end to the cooperation as it guarantees 15 seats in the future parliament for trade unionists, and declared that in its opinion PRM is 'a political formation in the process of modernisation with democratic values and principles and that it is for the Romanian state authorities to decide whether it is an extremist party'.

On 12 November 2004, the two confederations announced a decision to postpone their merger until 2005. According to the public statements made by union leaders, the reasons behind the decision were of a technical nature, and legal in particular. The argument was that the procedure of obtaining legal status for the new confederation would have taken too much time, thus impeding the organisation of protest actions and participation in social dialogue in the near future, when events of great interest for trade union members are due - such as collective bargaining at national level, amendments to the Labour Code and new draft laws under debate.

Under the circumstances, on 14-16 October 2004 CNSLR Frăţia held its fifth congress on its own. In addition to union members, the event was attended by guest participants - representatives of other national and international trade unions, employers' associations ( RO0310103F), and other national and international bodies. Adrian Năstase, the Prime Minister, addressed the delegates, offering his congratulations to the union members and expressing his satisfaction at the successes reaped over the years as a result of constructive social dialogue.

The CNSLR Frăţia congress elected a new management board without major changes and adopted a strategy for the coming years, as well as eight resolutions on:

  • proposals for legislation amendments;
  • education;
  • social partnership;
  • social security;
  • wage, fiscal, monetary, budgetary and employment policies;
  • trade union organisation;
  • involvement of young people; and
  • promoting women.
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