Employer organisations move towards greater cohesion
In the context of government plans to amend the employers’ law, the issues of representativeness of employer organisations and upholding the interests of their members have generated considerable debate and attempts to achieve concerted action at national level.
Regulations concerning employer organisations
In Romania, employer organisations may be set up in accordance with the provisions of Government Ordinance No. 26/2000 on associations and foundations, amended by Government Ordinance No. 37/2003 stipulating the mandatory character of approval from relevant authorities required to establish such entities. The organisation and functioning of the employer associations is regulated by Law No. 356/2001 and their representativeness is regulated by Law No. 130/1996 on collective work agreements.
Participation in tripartite social dialogue is in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 109/1997 on the organisation and functioning of the Economic and Social Council (Consiliul Economic si Social, CES). Sectoral social dialogue and the operation of social dialogue commissions at ministry level are governed by the provisions of Government Decision No. 314/2001.
Representative employer organisations contend that this regulatory framework is both dense and confusing. They also contest the mandatory nature of necessary approval from authorities to set up employer organisations.
At the end of 2005, the government proposed an amendment to the law on employer organisations (RO0602101F). Although nearly a year has elapsed since the government’s proposal, the new law is still under debate. Employer groups have focused on issues related to the representativeness of organisations and the way in which the interests of their members are upheld.
Attempts to achieve greater cohesion
Currently, 13 employer confederations exist at national level (RO0602101F, RO0404101F, RO0310103F). Two of them are cross-industry confederations: the Alliance of Employer Confederations in Romania (Alianta Confederatiilor Patronale din România, ACPR) and the Union of Romanian Employers (Uniunea Patronatului Român, UPR). On 13 February 2006, eight other nationally representative employer confederations, together with ACPR, signed a protocol on the concerted action of employer organisations at national level. The eight other employer confederations signing the protocol comprised the following:
- Romanian Association of Building Entrepreneurs (Asociatia Româna a Antreprenorilor din Constructii, ARACO);
- National Council of Private Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Romania (Consiliul National al Întreprinderilor Private Mici si Mijlocii din România, CNIPMMR);
- National Confederation of Romanian Employers (Confederatia Nationala a Patronatului Român, CNPR);
- National Council of Romanian Employers (Consiliul National al Patronilor din România, CoNPR);
- Confederation of Employers in Industry, Services and Trade (Confederatia Patronala a Industriei, Serviciilor si Comertului, CPISC);
- Romanian National Employers (Patronatul National Român, PNR);
- Romanian Employers (Patronatul Român, PR);
- General Union of Romanian Industrialists (Uniunea Generala a Industriasilor din România, UGIR).
Growing ACPR alliance
ACPR is an umbrella-type structure representing employer organisations at both national and international level. This associative alliance of representative employer organisations is based on the freely expressed consent of its constituent bodies. Each body within ACPR retains statutory autonomy of organisation, management, financing and representation in all the institutions of social dialogue and local and international relationships.
On 23 May 2006, the eight abovementioned nationally representative employer confederations approved the status of ACPR and became associative members of the alliance.
The Businesspersons’ Association of Romania (Asociatia Oamenilor de Afaceri din România, AOAR), the Romanian Banking Association (Asociatia Româna a Bancilor, ARB) and the Business Community European Initiative (Initiativa Europeana a Mediului de Afaceri, IEMA) are also members of the ACPR group.
As a result, ACPR includes all of the employer organisations except the General Union of Romanian Industrialists 1903 (Uniunea Generala a Industriasilor din România 1903, UGIR 1903), the National Union of Romanian Employers (Uniunea Nationala a Patronatului Român, UNPR) and UPR.
Conference on employers’ movement
On 7 July 2006, ACPR together with the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), organised a conference on ‘Employer organisations in Romania and upholding the interests of their members’, which was attended by 14 employer organisations, federations and confederations, business community representatives, as well as the Secretary General of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), Antonio Peñalosa. At the conference, the idea of a cohesive employers’ movement was unanimously endorsed, while unification as a single organisation remains a matter for further debate.
The first successful outcome of the new employers’ structure was the common opinion on amendments to Law No. 53/2003, the Labour Code, signed by seven of the eight nationally representative employers’ confederations (RO0608019I); PR was the only organisation that did not agree to the amendments.
The new employers’ structure, ACPR, fulfils the representativeness criteria as set out by the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). One of the confederations that refused to join the alliance, UGIR 1903, most likely took this stand for fear that some of its member employer organisations might decide to join one of the confederations within ACPR.
UGIR 1903 describes the employers’ movement in Romania as complicated and confusing, and refers to what it perceives as underhand arrangements in the past decade and also to political interference. Despite its criticisms, however, UGIR 1903 admits that continued fragmentation in the employers’ movement could jeopardise participation in social dialogue, promotion of business and self-regulation responsibilities.
In Bulgaria, which is also scheduled to join the European Union on 1 January 2007, a process of consolidation among employer organisations has likewise started (BG0606019I).
Luminita Chivu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy