Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 13:49:31 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Romania labour unions mull strikes, slam austerity
Article: 60440
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** 260.0 **/
** Topic: Romania labour unions mull strikes, slam austerity **
** Written 12:35 PM Apr 9, 1999 by in **
From: Labor Calendar <>
Subject: Romania labour unions mull strikes, slam austerity

Romania labour unions mull strikes, slam austerity

By Roxana Dascalu, Reuters, 8 April 1999

BUCHAREST, April 8 (Reuters)—Leaders of Romania's biggest trade unions, accusing the government of failing to turn reform promises into action and ease austerity, vowed on Thursday to go ahead with threatened nationwide strikes later this month.

Bogdan Hossu, leader of the Cartel Alfa trade union group, said President Emil Constantinescu had failed to broker a settlement between union bosses and political leaders during talks at his Cotroceni palace late on Wednesday.

“We told the president it was unacceptable that the government should say one thing and then not do it,” Hossu told Reuters. “Our action programme will not change.”

Besides union chiefs, Constantinescu had invited centrist coalition government leaders and opposition politicians to debate the government's short-term reform plan, which seeks to revive the sagging economy and avoid a financial crisis.

The president did, however, manage to broker an accord with the leftist opposition to address the vexed issue of returning property confiscated by the former communist government.

Constantinescu said on Wednesday that a new loan accord with the International Monetary Fund was essential for Romania, which faces a foreign debt servicing spike worth a total of $900 million in May and June. Talks with the IMF on a new stand-by loan will resume in Bucharest next week.

Government officials said after the talks that their top priority was to avoid foreign debt servicing default, and ruled out any relaxation of austerity policies—one of key trade unions' demands.

The leaders of four big labour unions, grouping four million workers from Romania's main industries, reacted by pledging to go ahead with a two-hour nationwide stoppage planned on April 19, followed by an general strike one week later.

Hossu said that the planned strike would affect road, rail and air transport, and other big industries, most of which are still in state hands nearly 10 years after communism's fall.

“The government has another 11 days to make good on its promises,” he said. “That's ample time, if they move quick.”

The economy is seen shrinking for the third consecutive year, and Romanians, who earn the equivalent of a mere $100 in monthly wages, are faced with plunging living standards.

The IMF and the World Bank have both urged Bucharest to quicken privatisation and restructuring of inefficient state industries, overhaul the banking sector and slash bulging current account deficits.