As Transportation Minister Fenechiu looked for solutions for the payment of salaries, PM Ponta warned that this episode should not turn into blackmail. Those responsible for the delay in the payment of salaries will be held accountable.
138 trains remained stationary yesterday after CFR employees in Bucharest, Craiova, Cluj, Iasi, Galati and Constanta staged a spontaneous strike around 7 AM because of a one-day delay in the payment of their salaries for December, CFR SA informs. The trains totalled delays of 10,468 minutes. Railway traffic nevertheless restarted around 9 AM, with the exception of the Brasov depot where 200 workers resumed work only around noon. Premier Victor Ponta told CFR employees that he understands their problems and knows that they have small salaries but warned them that he does not want yesterday morning’s strike to become a custom and to turn into “blackmail,” explaining that the authorities are exerting significant efforts in order to pay salaries, Mediafax informs. “The most important thing is to see how the crisis appeared and how we will avoid it in the future. I apologize to the passengers that suffered, I am sorry for the employees of CFR Passengers and Infrastructure as well,” Ponta stated at the start of the government meeting. He asked the Transportation Minister to establish as fast as possible who is to blame for the delay in the payment of salaries and also for the “background problem” and deemed that it is unfair for commuters to be affected. The Premier also pointed out that such situations could generate even bigger problems when it comes to financing the two railway companies. Enache Jiru, recently appointed member within CFR SA’s Administrative Council, stated for zf.ro that the strike is the institution’s problem, the general manager’s problem, “we (members of the Administrative Council – editor’s note) are meeting solely for certain problems, we are like a Parliament.” Lucian Isar, president of CFR SA’s Administrative Council, Dimitris Sophocleous, the company’s general manager, and Administrative Council members Florian Kubinschi and Dan Sandu did not make any statements about the strike. In his turn, CFR Passengers director Stefan Roseanu pointed out that a part of the CFR Passengers employees staged the spontaneous strike because they did not receive in full their salaries for the month of December, pointing out that solutions will be found in order to diminish the discomfort caused to passengers. Asked about the payment of salaries, Roseanu pointed out that the salaries for December were paid in proportion of 70-75 per cent and they will be paid in full for both CFR Passengers and CFR Infrastructure employees by Thursday morning. Likewise, Transportation Minister Relu Fenechiu stated that he summoned the leaderships of CFR Passengers and CFR Infrastructure in order to see who is responsible for the delays in the payment of salaries, pointing out that he will ask the Premier to verify the expenditures of each company and to hold to account those responsible. He stated that he lacks the prerogatives but will ask the Premier to verify the expenditures of each company under the control of the Transportation Ministry. “I have the suspicion they are prioritizing the payment of other expenditures, not of salaries. It’s the company owner’s responsibility, in this case the state’s, for the employees to be paid,” Fenechiu stated. He added yesterday that he will look for solutions in order for the problem to be solved later that day and for those responsible to be held accountable. Viorel Istrate, secretary general of the trade union, stated that “it’s very possible” for the protests to resume in case the salaries will not be paid today, however he received assurances from the ministry that in the future the payment of salaries will be done on time.
The complaints behind the strike
The Transportation Minister met the representatives of CFR labor unions yesterday, reiterating afterwards that the employees will get their money today at the latest, Mediafax informs. “Even though we are talking about a delay of one day, this was the icing on the cake. There are many complaints and I mention here only the fact that there was talk of restoring public sector salaries to their pre-austerity levels, but the CFR employees, despite having their incomes cut by about 30 per cent, did not receive anything back,” Iulian Mantescu, President of the Federation of Locomotive Mechanics, stated. A series of “complicated and complex problems” that concern railway transportation in Romania were also raised during the meeting with the minister. “I can adopt measures that concern the company’s reorganization only when I, as a minister, and we as a state are up to date with the payment of debts owed to people. I scheduled a meeting until the end of January, asking trade unions to come up with the main problems they identified in order to see how we can solve as many of them as possible,” the minister said. Gheorghe Fratica, the leader of the Commercial Transportation Federation, stated that only those involved in coordinating railway traffic, “very responsible” people, were involved in the protest. “I explained to the minister that apart from the salary issue they have other dissatisfactions such as thefts, problems that the minister said he will solve, particularly when it comes to the theft of railway components,” he said.