New bill to bring Labour Code in line with EU legislation

In order to speed up the transposition of EU legislation on social policy and employment, the Romanian government has issued another Emergency Ordinance to amend the existing Labour Code. The purpose of the new bill is to align provisions on collective redundancies, individual permanent or fixed-term employment contracts, and the principle of equal pay.

Context

In January 2005, the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii, Solidaritatii Sociale si Familiei, MMSSF) decided to amend the Labour Code (RO0502102F) by issuing an Emergency Ordinance, which was finally passed after lengthy negotiations with representative trade union and employer organisations. The ordinance was published in July 2005 and set out a considerable number of changes to the Labour Code, with which the social partners did not entirely agree (RO0507102F).

A second Emergency Ordinance intends to make further amendments and additions to the Labour Code to bring national law in line with EU legislation. The bill was placed on the MMSSF website and was open for public consultation until 31 July 2006.

This latest draft bill aims primarily to eliminate the shortcomings pinpointed by the May 2006 Monitoring Report on Romania’s preparations for EU accession prepared by the European Commission. To abide by the obligations assumed in view of Romania’s accession to the European Union in January 2007, the updates to the Labour Code had to be finalised by the end of August 2006.

In summary, the new draft proposes amendments, additions and clarifications that are meant to ensure alignment with the acquis communautaire (entire EU body of legislation) in the following areas:

Main provisions of new legislation

The amendments pertaining to collective redundancies focus on the following aspects:

  • simplifying the procedure whereby trade unions can express their views on collective redundancies;
  • modifying the definition of collective redundancy: according to the new regulations, if a minimum of five employees lose their jobs, the redundancy is regarded as a collective redundancy (compared with a minimum of 10 employees in the previous regulations);
  • establishing that a collective redundancy does not need to be conditional on economic difficulties faced by the employer, as in the previous regulations.

According to the recently proposed amendments, employers will be obliged to inform employees on fixed-term employment contract of current or potential vacancies for permanent posts that match their professional qualifications. The employer will also have to ensure that such employees have equal access to such vacant positions as other employees working on the basis of permanent employment contracts.

In addition, the draft legislation includes proposals of new provisions for part-time employment contracts. The restriction of working time to a minimum of two hours per day and 10 hours per week has been eliminated. According to the new provisions, a part-time employee is any person whose average weekly working time is less than that of a full-time employee.

The principle of equal pay for equal work has now been achieved under the new bill, with a guarantee of equal pay for equal work or work of an equal value. Previously, only Law No. 202/2002 on equal opportunities between men and women contained an ambiguous provision on this particular issue.

Finally, the draft proposes more explicit definitions for working hours and time off as well as a change in the period of reference for the calculation of regular working hours for employees doing night work.

Reaction of social partners

‘After being subjected to rigorous amendments under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the Labour Code has now achieved its European status,’ declared Dumitru Costin, leader of the National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul National Sindical, BNS).

However, on 9 August 2006, seven of the nationally representative employer organisations within the Alliance of Employers’ Confederations of Romania (Alianta Confederatiilor Patronale din România, ACPR) submitted to MMSSF their own proposals for amendments to the Labour Code, which for the most part do not coincide with those formulated by the ministry. The employer organisations consider that their proposals could contribute – especially in the area of collective redundancy – to a substantial enhancement of the draft Emergency Ordinance initiated by MMSSF and could help to fully harmonise the Labour Code with the acquis communautaire and the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Furthermore, in order to hold genuine consultations with the social partners, employer organisations request that a tripartite Technical Commission be established to discuss and draw up the amendments required for a realistic improvement of the Labour Code.

Constantin Ciutacu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

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