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Angry farmers, teachers take to the streets

In Buzau, teachers’ protest has degenerated into a break-in attempt, prompting gendarme intervention to calm things down. Some 175,000 teachers sued the government over unpaid salary rights.


The few tens of teachers who protested yesterday in the yard of the Buzau School Inspectorate tried to force their way into the building, requiring law enforcement forces intervention.


Protesters argued they wanted to talk with the general school inspector, who conveyed to union leaders there is no solution to teacher pay demands. Teachers demand their salaries be raised by 33 per cent. Despite the Inspectorate’s refusal to meet their demands, teachers said they would continue their protest with a march and a rally in downtown Buzau today. They also warned they would not go to classes unless paid the money they deserve. For now, no fewer than 160 schools have been closed down in Buzau County.


During the rally, participants booed and chanted slogans such as ‘Down with Government’, ‘Thieves’ ‘Boc Government, cash-stripped’, or ‘Hungry teachers tutor government officials.’


Other Romanian cities too saw various forms of teacher protests, with 300 Timis County teachers on warning strike for two hours yesterday morning, when they entered classrooms to oversight the pupils, yet not teach. Teachers are unhappy about low pay and post cuts. In Arad too, 6,000 teaching staff went on warning strike, with Arad unionists to participate next week in a rally in front of the City Hall and the Prefecture.


Other teachers opted not to write pupil marks down in the class roll. Education Minister Daniel Funeriu made an appeal to teachers not to answer union requests, and write the marks instead. Unions hit back, saying they only teachers they should not write the marks as an early form of protest, yet, no referendum has been held on the issue, which means it should not be read as mandatory.


Vocational school teachers protest


Over 100 teachers affiliated with the FSLI union federation yesterday picketed the Education Ministry headquarters and the Prefecture, demanding more funding for education. Vocational school teachers oppose such school budgets to be set per pupil, as the money allotted this way would not last beyond the first semester. FSLI General Secretary Liviu Pop said the vocational education budget per pupil comes to RON 3,600 instead of the RON 6,000 required.


However, Education Minister Daniel Funeriu talked to protesters, assuring them vocational, confessional schools and schools located in remote locations will receive extra money from the ministerial reserve fund. Also, he assured teachers there is salary money available. ‘No worries should concern either vocational, or other forms of education. Punctual problems will be resolved. You have nothing to worry about, don’t listen to what people say, but only to what the minister says. I’m sorry that what I tell union leaders does not reach you,’ the minister said.


Teachers sue Education Ministry


A number of 175,000 teachers from the overall 275,000 have either sued the state in court on grounds of low pay or have already won their cases in courts, which ruled the Education Ministry shall pay salaries including the 50 per cent pay raise passed by Parliament during the Tariceanu government. Government however has no money to do so. Higher Learning State Secretary Catalin Baba said Monday those who won court cases will be paid the money in installments over a three-year period. The Finance Ministry too came with an own proposal, namely to take a portion of the salary money for the upcoming quarters and use it to pay first quarter salary arrears, yet the rises will by no means match 50 per cent, but a mere 17 per cent.


Angry farmers picket Agriculture, Finance Ministries


Hundreds of farmers from around Romania, members of the Agrostar Federation, yesterday picketed the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, Realitatea.Net reports. Union leader Stefan Nicolae says the farmers’ main demands are the 2009 overdue subsidies, 50 per cent smaller agriculture diesel price and 5 per cent agri-food VAT. The protesters also want the authorities to obtain a derogation from the European Commission for keeping paying state aid to farmers in 2010 (for diesel, irrigation, milk quality, poultry, ovine, caprine, bovine, etc) because the legislation for the new aid forms has not yet been approved by the Government and by the EC. Another demand is the urgent notification of the de minimis state aid of up to EUR 15,000 to support the fruit & vegetable sector according to the Commission’s recommendations for 2010.


‘If our issues are not solved, at the beginning of May we will hold a rally with approximately 8,000 Agrostar members in Bucharest and will bring equipment and animals too. The many steps we have taken with the Ministry of Agriculture so far have been to no avail’, Stefan Nicolae said.


The farmers gathered in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development brought banners displaying messages such as: ‘Observe the law or leave!’, ‘I will not move to Italy. I want to be a farmer in Romania’, ‘We want to work, not to beg’, and ‘Liars’.


‘They want to sell us the diesel at RON 4.4/L and settle some the difference six months later. They (Ministry of Agriculture – our note) still owe Petrom money for 2008 and 2009, therefore we want to be able to buy diesel at a better price – about RON 3.0/L – straight away, without subsequent settlement’, a Teleorman farmer said. He added that he had not yet received all the money he was owed for his farmland in 2009. About 100 union members also picketed the Ministry of Finance with the same demands.


Agriculture Ministry: ‘To put it bluntly, there is no money!’


Yesterday, after seeing the representatives of the Agrostar Unions’ Federation, Agriculture State Secretary Adrian Radulescu said the majority of their demands could not be granted because of the lack of money. ‘We are working on a number of normative acts to grant Agrostar’s demands but, bluntly, there is no money’, Radulescu said. He added that one of the demands was a diesel fuel subsidy, for which purpose the Ministry of Agriculture had sent to the Finance Ministry a draft decision cutting diesel fuel excise duty by RON 1.18/litre. The unions also brought up the APIA payments and the Agriculture official told them that, while no payment had been made by the same time the year before, in 2010 a total of 380,000 farmers had received the total payment for 2009.


‘Before April we will pay overdue money to 850,000 – 900,000 farmers and we’ll hopefully make all payments by the end of June’, Radulescu said. The unions wanted to know when to expect the payment of milk, pig meat and poultry subsidies. The answer was that, if the money is received from the Finance Ministry, the payment would be made in the first decade of April.

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