Pay controversy in national post
On 19 April 2005, for the first time in 15 years, the national post employees went on a strike to claim a 16% pay rise. Following negotiations, the strike was called off that very day. Postal workers obtained only a mere 3% wage increase but the government promised that it would re-analyse the situation of the company together with the International Monetary Fund.
For quite a number of years now, the employees of the National Romanian Post Office Company (Compania Naţionala Poşta Română, Poşta Română), have been claiming higher wages, to no avail. Although the Romanian post is shortly to be privatised, no concrete programme has yet been approved to this end. Since 2001, according to the agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the Romanian Post is on the list of monitored state-owned enterprises with an imposed pay rise ceiling.
The financial data made public by the Ministry of Public Finance (Ministerul Finanţelor Publice, MF) following the emergence of other express carrier and delivery companies in Romania, indicated a decrease in the turnover of Poşta Română over the past four years and a fall in profit from EUR 30 million in 2000 to EUR 100 thousand in 2003. Although the data for 2004 have not been confirmed by the authorities, trade unions declare that the registered profit was close to EUR 1.3 million . Furthermore, the profit for 2004 could have reached around EUR 5 million had not considerable amounts been spent on organising the World Post Congress in Romania.
Previous to the strike, negotiations were held between the Federation of Trade Unions in the Romanian Post (Federaţia Sindicatelor din Poşta Română, FSPR) and the executive, when employees claimed a 16% pay rise and were granted only 4%, the maximum wage increase ceiling agreed between the government and the IMF for monitored enterprises.
According to trade unions, the average enterprise wage is ROL 4.5 million (about EUR 124). The 4% pay rise offered by the authorities would only bring an additional ROL 100-150 thousand (between EUR 2.7-4). Leaders of the National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul Naţional Sindical, BNS) (RO0307101F) to which FSPR is affiliated, stated that over 9,200 employees of the Poşta Română (25% of the total number) have monthly wages of only ROL 3.1 million (EUR 85), which is below the minimum wage set by the national collective agreement for 2005 (RO0501101N), namely ROL 3.3 million (around EUR 90), while other 23,000 employees earn less than ROL five million per month (EUR 138).
Trade unions also accused the fact that by keeping Poşta Română on the list of monitored enterprises, the company is prevented from take new people on board despite the current staff shortage of 1,200.
Since the parties did not reach an understanding, for the first time in the past 15 years employees decided to cease work.
The strike began at 00.00 on 19 April 2005, and was scheduled to last until 27 April 2005. The protest blocked the payment of pensions, child allowances, unemployment benefits, on which Poşta Română holds a national monopoly. Close to 80% of the more than six million pensioners receiving their pensions by post would have had to go without their April dues had the postal workers’ strike continued.
Reactions from employers (RO0310103F) and the public at large were quick to follow on the very first day of the strike. The National Confederation of Private Romanian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Confederaţia Naţională a Întreprinderilor Private Mici şi Mijlocii din România, CNIPMMR), declared that the strike will affect small entrepreneurs most all. The National Association of Romanian Exporters and Importers (Asociaţia Naţională a Exportatorilor şi Importatorilor din România, ANEIR), and the Businessmen's Association of Romania (Asociaţia Oamenilor de Afaceri din România, AOAR) took a different stand. Together with other representatives of larger companies they considered that as far as they were concerned the postal strike posed no threat as they had long been using express carrier and delivery services.
The banking sector was more than a little concerned. The Romanian Banking Association (Asociaţia Română a Băncilor, ARB), discussed the issue with the National Bank of Romania (Banca Naţională a României, BNR), made the first estimates of the losses caused by the strike and announced it would sue Poşta Română for damages.
The management of Poşta Română took FSPR to court, considering that the claims formulated by the employees were counter to Romanian legislation, therefore the strike was illegal. Prime Minister Călin Popescu Tăriceanu supported the stand taken by the administration and stressed 'the need for a more careful and in-depth examination of the situation, taking into account the economic performance of the company as well as of the Romanian economy as a whole'.
At noon 19 April 2005, discussions between the parties were resumed with several rounds of negotiations held in succession the rest of the day. After midnight, around 3 a.m. a decision was reached to call off the strike and union leaders sent word around the country to resume work.
According to the agreement reached by the parties involved, starting 1 May 2005, employees got a 3% pay rise and the company minimum wage became ROL 3.3 million. Postal workers also obtained a 5% increment for length of service in the 3-5 years bracket as well as a ROL 1.5 million voucher for the Christmas holidays.
Government representatives promised to take the necessary steps to have the company removed from the list monitored by the IMF. The company management also announced it would withdraw the lawsuit against FSPR. An IMF delegation is expected to arrive in Romania on which occasion the government intends to approach the issue.
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