Trade unions welcome verdict. PM Emil Boc admits that support for 50 per cent wage increase in 2008 was a mistake.
The High Court yesterday accepted a review for even interpretation of a 2008 law granting teachers a 50 per cent salary hike. The court thus accepted the legal actions initiated by the Prosecutor General and the Galati Court of Appeal’s leading college in order to obtain a uniform enforcement of the law on national level. Under the High Court decision, which is final and cannot be challenged, teachers will thus be entitled to receive their due wage increase.
The law granting a 50 per cent salary hike to teachers was passed by Parliament and promulgated by President Traian Basescu despite opposition of the government in office at the time, led by Calin Popescu Tariceanu. The government subsequently issued an emergency ordinance postponing the enforcement of the 50 per cent hike and offering in exchange a 17 per cent hike. The ordinance was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court and since then, a growing number of teachers have sued the state and won in court the right to receive the 33 per cent wage hike difference.
The High Court’s ruling comes as the government is preparing to push through Parliament a draft law that would cap teachers’ salaries and prevent any further increases or bonuses until the end of the year.
The Federation of Free Unions in the Education System (FSLI) welcomed the ruling, saying that courts will thus be required to grant teachers their income hikes. In a press release quoted by Mediafax, FSLI said that about 10,000 federation members still have ongoing legal actions to obtain their salary hike as provided by the 2008 law. In the context, the Federation also demanded the resignation of all Education Ministry management members who urged school units and inspectorates to block application of the law.
“The High Court ruling is a first sign that justice needs to be done for teachers and proves, once again, the lack of professionalism of the government, which tried to block application of a law of great importance to teaching staff. I hope this is a lesson for these irresponsible leaders who continue to take action to limit salaries in the education system,” FSLI president Simion Hancescu said.
A day before the verdict, on Monday, Education Minister Daniel Funeriu said the High Court ruling would help apply the wage increase law uniformly and will allow the authorities to even out due salary payments to teachers.
Prime Minister Emil Boc also insisted that the new draft law his government has prepared will not interfere in any way with court rulings and that all teachers who won their salaries in court will receive the money in instalments over the next years, based on available economic resources. In comments on the public television on Monday evening, Boc also admitted that the 50 per cent salary hike for teachers decided in 2008 was a mistake.
“I say it clear and humbly: supporting the 50 per cent wage increase in 2008 was a mistake and I admit it. I was one of those who supported the salary hike, even if I was neither in the government not in the parliament. I am admitting this because it’s better to admit than to persevere in the mistake,” Boc said. Yesterday, he reiterated that the High Court verdict would be respected and said the due salaries for October 1, 2008-December 31, 2009, will be paid when the country’s economic resources allow it.
The prime minister had meetings with parliamentary groups of his Democrat Liberal Party on Monday and was set to meet with lawmakers of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania as well, to discuss the draft law banning any salary hikes for teachers until the end of the year. The talks were also to be attended by Funeriu and Labour Minister Ioan Botis. The meeting came after the ruling coalition tasked the cabinet to demand a confidence vote for the new legislation. In response, the opposition Social Liberal Union threatened to file criminal complaints against the prime minister and the president if the law is passed.
Besides the law on teachers’ wages, the government might also demand a confidence vote on the Code of Social Dialogue, as proposed by the PDL. The Code of Social Dialogue includes regulations regarding unions, employers and labour agreements.
Funeriu, urged to resign
In the wake of the High Court ruling, pressure on Funeriu to resign as education minister increased. PDL Arad Deputy Marius Gondor said Funeriu should resign for the “harm caused to teachers” by the delay with which a clear law on their salaries emerged. “Given the High Court ruling, Minister Funeriu should resign. I think he is responsible for the harm caused to teachers by applying unfair and un-unitary salaries to education personnel,” Gondor said, quoted by Mediafax.
Another PDL MP, Dan-Radu Zatreanu backed the call. “I have said it a long time ago that Funeriu is outdated, he doesn’t have the necessary scope to be part of the Boc cabinet. Now he proved it again, by proposing to the government to cap teachers’ salaries and he didn’t even have the common sense to come before us and explain his point of view. If he doesn’t have time to be a minister, he should go,” Zatreanu said.
According to daily ‘Gandul’ and to Realitatea.net, several PDL MPs on Monday demanded Boc to consider replacing Funeriu, unhappy with the minister’s poor communication and management, which will lead to the government seeking yet another confidence vote in Parliament.
When asked to comment on the matter, Funeriu said “resignation is usually filed when you don’t solve the problems” and insisted that “the problem” is already being solved. He did not make any further comments.