The Romanian government is threatening unions after a protest in the Bucharest metro
The dissatisfaction of the transport workers exacerbated the conflict between the right-wing government of Florin Cîţu and the labour unions
Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cîţu is seeking to sanction protesters in the Bucharest metro on Friday, which he described as “illegal”, according to the Ziare website. The Prime Minister said he would be looking for culprits to repair the damage, state institutions to help citizens and companies to recover the losses, and the payment of protesters be reduced by one day. Labour union leaders said on Friday that their dissatisfaction was due to a possible shortage of staff and risk at salary cuts. Transport Minister Cătălin Drulă however believes that the real reason for starting the protests are the economic interests related to a trade union company, with labour union being run by former member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party Ion Radoi. The labour union company manages retail spaces in the subway.
To learn more about the protest and what follows after that, the Bulgarian National Radio approached Radu Stochiţă. He is a student and author of a popular column on trade union struggles in Romania on the website Baricada România. He also maintains a Telegram channel for workers’ struggles in Romania and around the world. The interview was broadcast and published on the BNR website on March 29, 2021.
Mr. Stochiţa, on March 26, 2021, the workers of the metro in Bucharest stopped working. How did this protest become possible?
This is a long story, but at the heart of last week’s event was poor communication and dialogue between Transport Minister Cătălin Drulă and the subway union’s leader, Ion Rădoi, who has been accused of being a political appointment and is constantly accused of the fact that subway employees have quite good salaries, while workers in Romania in other sectors do not have such. The activity of the trade union-owned company, which has constructed a lot of the retail spaces in the subway, also causes controversy.
What are the demands of the protesters from the Bucharest subway?
Here the problem is complicated a bit, as the governing politicians claim that the demands are related to the financial interests of the union leader Radoi, and not to the workers in the subway. At the heart of the dispute are the commercial spaces, which according to the government must be closed, because of the risk of catching fire. But from what I myself heard on the spot during the protest, among the demands is that salaries don’t get reduced. Also there is a demand that the subway is not sold to multinational companies. It is an issue that is not currently on the agenda. The main problem, however, remains the lack of communication between subway workers and the Ministry of Transport.
What follows after the protest?
Good question. No one knows. There were two major protests last week – one by the police labour union, about which the Associated press wrote. The second was the subway protest. I think that after these events, the labour unions will have a higher pace in public discussions although I don’t know whether they will succeed in their struggle. But from now on, when people talk about state institutions, they will automatically have to think about trade unions and perceive them as a real opportunity to give some power to workers.
Various labour union protests have been taking place in Romania recently. What are the reasons for the tensions between the government Cîţu and the labour unions?
The answer is simple. Let’s look at international federations and confederations. We will notice that many of them focus on the government and the fact that it doesn’t understand the role of labour unions in the state. The labour unions are perceived by the current government as a good thing that exists, but should not bother. Yes, labour unions can protest, but let’s don’t create troubles for the government. So when they protest, the government complains about them.
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