Warning strike hits the rail sector
Romanian railways workers were out on a two hours warning strike on 22 April 2005. As in previous years, pay increase and meal vouchers were the main demands. Regardless of the imminent general strike, the management is committed not to go back on its initial offer.
On 22 April 2005, between 07.00 and 09.00, a warning strike was called in the Romanian rail transport. It had the support of the five representative trade union federations in the sector: the Independent Federation of Traffic-Trade in Rail Transport (Federaţia Independentă a Sindicatelor Mişcare Comercial din Transporturile Feroviare, FISMCTF), the Federation of Engine Drivers (Federaţia Mecanicilor de Locomotivă, FML), the Federation of Trade Unions in the Train Carriage Branch (Federaţia Sindicatelor din Ramura Vagoane, FSRV), the Iron Railroad Federation (Federaţia Drum de Fier) and the Elcatel Federation (Federaţia Elcatel).
As in 2004 RO0403101N, the main demands of employees were related to pay; this time the reason was the refusal of companies in the rail sector to raise wages by 10.8% and to grant 20 meal vouchers per month to each employee.
As for the minimum pay in the sector, trade union members declare that 'we have demanded less than the minimum wages we are entitled according to the branch collective agreement'. In direct contradiction to this statement, the Minister of Transports, Gheorghe Dobre, pointed out that the budgets of companies in the rail sector provide for a pay rise of only 4%, and added 'we lack the money'.
The strike blocked over 400 trains throughout the country, at rush hour, when most daily commuters were on their way to work. During the warning strike ticket offices were closed and immense queues formed in front of the counters.
Some 85% of employees in the rail sector joined the protest. Union members announced that between 23 April and 2 May 2005 they would collect signatures to call a general strike should the warning strike fail to give the expected results. According to a trade union leader, 'normally, after 5 days we would have the right to call a general strike but we will do so only after the Easter holidays so as not to affect the population'.
Following the strike, the management representatives would not swerve from their first offer for a maximum 4% pay rise, and proposed to extend former employment contracts by one more year. They argued that, were union members’ demands to be met, the budgetary effort would amount to around EUR 19 million for wages and EUR 18 million for meal vouchers.
The Prime Minister Călin Popescu Tăriceanu recently announced a budget reduction adjustment for all ministries, a decision imposed by the general decrease of cash inflow, triggered by the amendment of the Fiscal Code and the introduction of the flat-rate income tax.
In addition, rail companies have heavy arrears from previous years and under the law, employees of companies with debts cannot receive meal vouchers. Consequently, a new rise in the price of train tickets is very likely, which places the rail sector in a very uncompetitive position compared to the road passenger transportation.
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