Two major mergers of employers’ organisations
In March 2004, eight of Romania's 12 'nationally representative' employers’ organisations merged into two separate new top-level structures. The Alliance of Employers’ Confederations of Romania (ACPR) brings together two of these organisations, while the other six have created the Union of Romanian Employers (UPR).
Up until March 2004, there were 12 'nationally representative' employers’ organisations in Romania (RO0310103F), compared with only five nationally representative trade union confederations (RO0307101F). Moreover, since late 2003, the trade union confederations’ actions and standpoints have become much more harmonised, and their bargaining power has thus increased and exceeded that of employers’ organisations more than before (RO0403102F).
Increasingly aware of this situation, employers’ confederations have started to react and move towards grouping their forces, in order to be able to give a common response to the trade unions and government. Recent collaboration with German employers’ organisations may have contributed to speeding up this process. At the beginning of 2004, five nationally representative Romanian employers’ organisations - the General Union of Romanian Industrialists (Uniunea Generală a Industriaşilor din România, UGIR), the General Union of Romanian Industrialists 1903 (Uniunea Generală a Industriaşilor din România 1903, UGIR 1903), the Romanian National Employers (Patronatul Naţional Român, PNR), the National Council of Private Romanian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Consiliul Naţional al Întreprinderilor Private Mici şi Mijlocii din România, CNIPMMR),and the National Union of Romanian Employers (Uniunea Naţională a Patronatului Român, UNPR) - along with employers’ organisations from Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, were invited to Germany to meet with local employers. The aim of the visit was to manage the process of European integration better, as well as to enhance social dialogue mechanisms and the negotiating techniques used in collective bargaining.
On 22 March 2004, the creation of the Alliance of Employers’ Confederations of Romania (Alianţa Confederaţiilor Patronale din România, ACPR) was made public. ACPR states that it brings together employers that account for 60% of the Romanian gross domestic product (GDP). ACPR involves:
- two of the nationally representative employers’ organisations - the National Confederation of Romanian Employers (Confederaţia Naţională a Patronatului Român, CNPR) and the Employer Confederation of Romanian Industry (Confederaţia Patronală din Industria României, CONPIROM); and
- four other organisations - the National Employer Confederation of Industries, Services and Commerce (Confederaţia Patronală Naţională a Industriilor, Serviciilor şi Comerţului, CPISC), the Romanian Businessmen's Association (Asociaţia Română a Oamenilor de Afaceri, AOAR), the Romanian Banks Association (Asociaţia Română a Băncilor, ARB) and the European Initiative of Business Environment (Iniţiativa Europeană a Mediului de Afaceri, IEMA).
According to George Copos, the president of CNPR, 'the new programme of ACPR will be very aggressive, in order to find viable solutions for change in Romania'. Moreover, he stated that the only option for the Romanian employers’ movement is now to group as many employers’ organisations as possible into such an association, and that this would benefit a functioning market economy.
The next day, on 23 March, six other nationally representative employers’ organisations set up the Union of Romanian Employers (Uniunea Patronatelor din România, UPR). These are:
- UGIR 1903;
- Romanian Employers (Patronatul Român, PR);
- the National Council of Romanian Employers (Consiliul Naţional al Patronilor din România, CoNPR); and
UPR states that it represents the most important industrialists in Romania. According to a press release, the merger is meant to ensure that the employers’ voice is heard at the Victoria Palace (the government headquarters). UPR’s other aims are to represent jointly and protect the interests of all Romanian entrepreneurs. The management of UPR will consist of an executive board on which the presidents of all affiliated employers’ organisations will have seats as co-presidents of UPR. The president of UPR will have a one-year term of office and will be elected by rotation from the six members of the executive board. The first UPR president is George Constantin Păunescu of UGIR, to be followed in 2005 by Ovidiu Tender of UGIR 1903.
UPR’s evaluation of the share of the national economy represented by its affiliated companies optimistic. It states, for instance, that two-thirds of Romanian GDP comes from the small and medium-sized enterprises whose interests are now represented by UPR.
There is a considerable wish to increase the professionalism of employers’ activity. For example, with this in mind, UGIR 1903 has signed a permanent collaboration protocol with the National Institute of Economic Research (Institutul Naţional de Cercetări Economice, INCE) of the Romanian Academy (Academia Romana).
At least in terms of the number of affiliated organisations, UPR will become the largest nationally representative employers’ organisation. According to statements by its leadership, the main pillars of its policy will be to fight against financial 'blockages', enable easier access to development funds and support the internal market and reindustrialisation. Mr Tender stated: 'In Romania, the cost of funding is immense and, in the end, the industrialist find him or herself working for banks.' Moreover, speaking about the delays recorded by most domestic companies in paying their social security contributions, he argued: 'I refuse to believe that 90% of the Romanian economic agents are thieves! There must be a common cause.'
For its part, ACPR, through two of its affiliated organisations (CNPR and AOAR), is engaged in promoting a revision of the Fiscal Code. The tax exemption for reinvested profits is under question ( RO0401107F) and the Ministry of Public Finances (Ministerul Finantelor Publice, MF) has announced that a decision on this issue will be taken by the middle of 2004.
The formal recognition of the two new employers’ groupings in legal terms is still underway. Affiliations of the remaining nationally representative employers’ organisations to one of the two bodies in this new bipolar structure might be expected, as it will become much more difficult for them to remain independent, but the path towards employers’ unification is still not clear.
For example, UNPR's position is rather reluctant. It recently commissioned a survey from the Centre for Urban and Regional Sociology (Centrul de Sociologie Urbana si Regionala, CURS), which was conducted over 23-31 March 2004. Interviewees were asked: 'In your opinion, which of the following employers’ organisations best represents the interests of Romanian entrepreneurs: UNPR, UGIR 1903, CNIPMMR, UGIR, PNR, CNPR, CONPIROM, CPR, other, none?' Of those interviewed, 64% did not respond. Of those who did respond, 40% chose 'none', 24% selected UNPR, 12% UGIR 1903, 8% CNIPMMR, 7% UGIR, 4% PNR, 2% CNPR, 1% CONPIROM and 1% 'other'. Marian Petre Milut, the president of UNPR, stated: 'We believe that employers’ trust is gained through work, in order to achieve the goals of our members, and by refusing to be part in any political activities that might hinder the interests of those represented by us.' (Diana Preda, Institute of National Economy)