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February 27, 2021

Protest at Mechel plant ends in tragedy

Fired worker commits suicide. Reacting to the tragedy, PM Ponta says companies that fail to honor their obligations towards employees will be liable. 2,000 Metrorex, Tarom and RATB protesters complained over job insecurity and unpaid salaries in Bucharest.

The dissatisfaction of the employees of Romanian companies are increasingly obvious, the growing number of protests being proof in this sense. Protests have taken place on a weekly basis since mid-January – at Oltchim, Mechel Campia Turzii, Tarom, Hidroelectrica, CFR Passengers, the Romanian Post. Whether they were spontaneous or planned, the employees’ protests were mainly caused by job insecurity and unpaid salaries. Yesterday thousands of subway employees protested outside the Transportation Ministry building, after which they continued their protest within Victoriei Square until 4 PM and filed an address with their main demands. Over 2,000 persons took part in the protest, Ion Radoi, President of the Union of Subway Trade Unions, stated. The leaders of the Locomotive Mechanics’ Trade Unions, the TAROM Free Trade Union and the Bucharest Autonomous Public Transportation Administration (RATB) joined the protest. Traffic was restricted along the protesters’ route. Subway employees are dissatisfied that their salaries will not be hiked and that Metrorex could be transferred under the control of the Bucharest City Hall, which could mean salary cuts, Ion Radoi pointed out. Protesters accused the authorities of refusing dialogue and the Transportation Ministry and Metrorex of adopting an inflexible position on the renegotiation of the collective labor contract that is set to expire on March 31 and of failing to clarify the employees’ situation following the transfer to the Bucharest City Hall. In what concerns that transfer, Transportation Minister Relu Fenechiu gave assurances that the subway will be transferred to the Bucharest City Hall only after talks and negotiations take place with the social partners and pointed out that he will not negotiate with the trade union under the pressure of street protests. “For the time being as a minister I am interested primarily in finding solutions in order to continue work on Main Line 5 and I never raised the issue of lowering Metrorex employees’ salaries and as long as I will be in office and able to, I will never raise it,” Fenechiu stated after he was heard within the Lower Chamber’s commission on industries.

The Transportation Minister pointed out that there is no point in talking about transferring Metrorex to the Bucharest City Hall today, and if this decision is taken all talks will take place with the social partners because the law on transparency in public administration forces authorities to post on the website any document on this issue and the green light of the Social and Economic Council has to be obtained. “My personal view, taking into account the success models throughout the world, from London to Paris and other capitals, is that the subway should be under the City Hall’s jurisdiction,” the Transportation Minister stated. Ion Radoi pointed out that trade union members asked the leadership of Metrorex, in line with the law, to present this year’s budget of revenues and expenditures and the company’s economic situation, documents on whose basis the negotiation of the collective labor contract has to take place. “The answer given to trade unionists was the same budget figure as in 2008, in the context in which there has been no salary hike in the last four years and the employees have willingly given up their vacation, Easter and Christmas bonuses. We have nothing to negotiate if we’re talking about the same budget as in 2008 because we have given up too many rights,” Radoi stated. According to the leader of the trade union, the collective labor contract expires on March 31 and its absence gives subway employees the right to go on strike. At the same time, trade unionists remind Premier Victor Ponta that he promised to re-launch social dialogue, not to “freeze it” along with the negotiations.

PM wants to sanction companies that fail to honor their obligations towards employees

The protests at Mechel Campia Turzii continued yesterday for the third consecutive day this week, over one hundred employees that were laid off gathering outside the plant to protest because they did not receive their compensatory salaries. Their desperation reached maximum levels. A 58-year-old former Mechel Campia Turzii employee killed himself. His colleagues pointed out that he had been fired on February 10 and resorted to this gesture because he was no longer able to pay his bank loan, Mediafax informs. The man would have turned 58 yesterday. He was found dead in his home on Tuesday evening. The man hanged himself. He worked as operator for 36 years and was about to retire next year. Another employee killed himself at the Mechel Campia Turzii plant two years ago. That employee buckled under the psychological pressure caused by an evaluation within the plant. Cluj County Prefect Gheorghe Ioan Vuscan ordered the start of a social investigation into the case of the employees laid off by Mechel Campia Turzii, in order for them to receive financial aid. Trade union members from Laminorul Braila, one of the five metallurgical plants recently sold by Russia’s Mechel Group, announced that they will protest outside the Prefecture on March 15 and are determined to stage a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Bucharest at the end of the month, stating that they lost their hope of seeing the plant recovering under the new leadership and the only salvation is to reopen the insolvency procedure, as suggested by the members of the Prefectural Commission of Social Dialogue.


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