The employees of two National Penitentiary Administration (ANP) trade unions protested outside the institution on Wednesday, demanding better work conditions, the tackling of the personnel shortage, elimination of pay gaps and the resignation of Justice Minister Raluca Pruna.
“The protests will continue in the penitentiaries too until the Romanian Government reacts. In Bacau, Satu Mare, Bistrita, Dej and Slobozia, penitentiary officers and agents have also announced protests outside the penitentiaries on October 12. At the penitentiaries in Aiud, Arad, Gaesti, Botosani and Galati, protests will take place a day later, on October 13,” the Omnia Trade Union announced.
Trade union members claim that “penitentiary employees are working in the same conditions that Minister Raluca Pruna decries when it comes to convicts. And, although at this moment the Government’s plan to spend approximately 740 million Dollars to improve detention conditions in the next 10 years, as a result of ECHR pressures, is no longer credible, it remains notable that funds have not been earmarked for the improvement of work conditions too. At national level, the penitentiary system has a deficit of 8,000 jobs based on standards issued by ANP and a number of 1.5 million extra work hours have been clocked, and the outlook is for these indicators to worsen considering that the personnel trend is negative against the backdrop of pay gaps promoted by Minister Raluca Pruna through her refusal to implement Government Emergency Ordinance 20/2016 in the case of penitentiary employees too.”
Likewise, trade union representatives claim that they will no longer work extra hours, announcing a protest outside the Justice Ministry headquarters on October 18.
The National Trade Union of Penitentiary Employees (SNLP) also took part in Wednesday’s protest.
“Although 2016 was a good budgetary year, instead of hiring an extra 1,000 employees we will register a substantial loss caused by massive retirements but also by the delaying of employment procedures. In 2017, the number of extra work hours will grow to over 1.5 million (annually) and will be impossible to compensate. A collapsing system about which the Justice Minister openly lies saying it is faring well, by falsely stating at the ECHR that new penitentiaries will be built. A system that can be gridlocked through the simple refusal to work extra hours,” SNLP representatives claim.
PSD and ALDE: Raluca Pruna’s absence from debate on simple motion – “technocrat’s gall”
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna was not present on Tuesday at the debate on the motion filed against her, Deputy Premier Costin Borc announcing that she will come before Parliament next week. In response, PSD’s Florin Iordache stated that he hopes the Premier will have the decency to sack her by then.
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna informed Lower Chamber lawmakers that she will not be able to come before them because her flight has been delayed, however she will answer their questions next week. Her message was relayed in Parliament by Deputy Premier Emil Borc.
He announced that the Justice Ministry’s flight back to the country was delayed by unfavourable weather.
In response, PSD’s Florin Iordache stated that he believes Premier Ciolos will sack Raluca Pruna after the motion is read.
“Deputy Premier, you have proposed something novel, for the Minister who should have been here today to speak next week instead, but I believe that after this motion is read Premier Dacian Ciolos will have the decency and madam Minister will no longer be in office next week,” Lower Chamber Speaker Florin Iordache said.
He admitted that the minister’s explanations would not have been convincing anyway.
“Someone who will no longer be a minister next week is unable to come before Parliament. She could have very well showed up today to present her point of view. A point of view that did not convince us and did not convince society as a whole,” Iordache said.
Raluca Pruna was reproached for the judicial system’s problems, for her statement according to which “rights are a luxury,” and for the fact that she lied ECHR judges about the funds earmarked for penitentiaries.
Pruna was also accused of having “technocrat’s gall.”
“I didn’t expect so much technocrat’s gall, I really didn’t expect Minister Pruna being absent at the debate on the motion that concerns her,” ALDE MP Steluta Cataniciu stated at the opening of the debate.
Cataniciu added that in Brussels the Justice Minister’s blunders would have been punished far more harshly.
“Had she said something like that in Brussels, she would have been kicked out of her job as translator. In Romania, thanks to her supporters, she remains to lecture us. We deserve it,” the ALDE MP stated, adding that “it’s unlikely for this motion to result in the sacking of the Justice Minister.”
In his turn, Mate Andras (UDMR) noted that it is a record for him to again take part in a debate on a simple motion against the same Justice Minister in one year’s time.
He stated that instead of saying she erred before the ECHR, Raluca Pruna should have seen what steps are needed to solve the problem the judicial system is facing.
Romania risks sanctions of around 70 million Euros if it is unable to solve the penitentiaries’ problem, the UDMR leader reminded.
Neither PNL representatives nor the Government’s representative addressed the MPs.
After consulting the group leaders present, the MPs decided to proceed to the final vote.
“I believe there is not even a quorum for the vote. There should be a roll call. My opinion, based on a guesstimate, is that there is no quorum for the vote,” independent MP Remus Cernea stated at the rostrum, taking the opportunity to remind MPs that he will continue his voting strike until it is possible to vote electronically, not by raising hands, the latter being a voting system “vulnerable to fraud.”
After the attendance was verified, PSD MP Gabriel Vlase decided to suspend the meeting, only 141 MPs being present.