Romania's subway workers call off strike

Romanian subway workers called off an indefinite strike over wages planned to begin after the centrist government caved in, the union said.

Romania's subway workers call off strike

Romanian subway workers called off an indefinite strike over wages planned to begin on Thursday after the centrist government caved in and approved wage hikes of up to 10 percent, the union said.

The three-month-old cabinet in Romania, the EU's second poorest country, has put a vital 20 billion euro International Monetary Fund aid deal back on track by promising to cut spending, including axing up to 100,000 public sector jobs.

But analysts warn mounting social unrest and an unstable cabinet -- with only fragile support in parliament -- make Bucharest prone to making further concessions, similar to Wednesday's, which may put the brake on reforms.

Some 5,000 subway workers in Bucharest had planned to stop work, demanding a 20 percent pay rise in the first major union action this year, which could have caused traffic gridlock in the capital city of some 2.2 million people.

"Luckily for subway employees and the public, there's not going to be any strike tomorrow," trade union leader Ion Radoi told state news agency Agerpres on Wednesday.

Other public workers including hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants plan a series of strikes in the coming weeks, piling pressure on the new cabinet trying to claw its way out of recession with painful budget spending cuts.

Unions plan to show mounting discontent at pay cuts and mass layoffs in the country's bloated administration and analysts say nationwide strikes may hamper Bucharest's bid to rein in a yawning fiscal deficit.

Pressure mounting 

Romania's huge state sector accounts for a third of the country's jobs, employing 1.3 million workers. Its payroll swallows 9 percent of gross domestic product and experts say the cost is twice as high as it should be.

Teachers in poorer eastern regions have started boycotting classes at about 160 schools, protesting against a decision to reschedule overdue wage payments over a three-year period.

The move has angered powerful education unions, who are holding consultations this week to decide on whether to stage a strike. Union leader Aurel Cornea says a nationwide referendum among teachers would take place in April.

And there could be more to come, with analysts warning recently drafted plans to sack 10,000 railway staff this year could also provoke strike action.

The next battleground will probably be the minimum wage, which unions have long demanded should be raised to 705 lei ($236) per month from 600 lei.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Mart 2010, 23:42
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