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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Romania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Romania, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca7228.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 21,400,000
Capital: Bucharest
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The strike law was amended, but some of the restrictions still remain. Organising a legal strike is difficult. Enforcement of anti-union discrimination laws remains a problem.

Trade union rights in law

The 2003 Trade Union Law recognises the right of workers to establish and join the trade union of their choice. This right applies to all workers except high-level government and civil service staff, public prosecutors and judges, and military, intelligence and police personnel.

These exclusions are too broad and the ILO Committee of Experts has requested that the government amend the legislation to ensure that all workers without distinction have the right to form and join the organisations of their choosing.

Workers are not permitted to belong to more than one union at time even when they are engaged in more than one occupational activity in different occupations or sectors; thus, their associative rights are limited.

The law requires a minimum of 15 members to form a union. They have to belong to the same branch of activity, but not the same enterprise.

The Foreign Investors' Council has been pushing for labour law reform that would facilitate dismissals and weaken trade unions' collective bargaining rights.

Strike limitations: The right to strike is recognised. Employees in sanitary services, pharmacies, schools, communications, radio and television, transport and the supply of essential services (gas, electricity and so on) must provide a minimum service of one third of normal activity in the event of a strike.

Strikes may be held only if all means of possible conciliation have failed. The employer must be given 48 hours' warning. Strikes can only be held to defend the economic interests of the workers and must not be used for political reasons. The same people who are prohibited from joining and forming trade unions may not strike.

On 19 July the Parliament adopted the amendments to the strike law. According to the new text, trade unions can invoke the procedures foreseen for collective labour conflicts in case of discontent over annual collective bargaining rounds.

Strikes can also be declared illegal on the grounds of procedural irregularities. If a strike is declared illegal, the trade union leader can legally be fired, even if the strike is ended immediately after being declared illegal. If a court declares a strike illegal, the union has to pay damages.

Act No 261/9 adopted in July 2007 concerning the settlement of labour disputes still allows for compulsory arbitration in the event that a strike lasts more than 20 days.

In June the government was called before the Committee on the Application of Standards of the International Labour Conference. The government accepted the ILO technical assistance mission to help address the shortcomings of strike legislation. At the time of writing, the government had met with the ILO mission, and an agreement was reached to bring the law in compliance with the ILO standards.

Collective bargaining: Collective bargaining is a recognised right under a 1996 law that stipulates that collective agreements are to be renewed every year. The state may not interfere in the collective bargaining process. No sector is excluded by law from collective bargaining. However, collective agreements can only be negotiated in workplaces where there is a minimum of 21 employees.

Public employees may bargain for everything except salaries, which are set by the government.

Protection against discrimination: Anti-union discrimination is prohibited by law. The protection of trade union leaders is strengthened by the new trade union law. Throughout the mandate and two years after its completion, the employment contract of the trade union leader cannot be terminated for unjustified reasons unless the elected leadership of the trade union agrees. Penal sanctions may be imposed for obstructing trade union activities.

No labour courts: In response to a request from the trade unions to establish specialised bodies to deal with labour disputes, the government drafted a bill to this effect and promised that the new labour courts would be established by the end of 2004. However, labour courts have not been created. Labour disputes have continued to be dealt with by specialised panels, in the normal court system. The labour law specialists representing employers and trade union organisations on these panels can only give an opinion; their view is not binding on the court.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: Romania became a member of the European Union on 1 January 2007, although the EU authorities had to impose special measures to address shortcomings Romania still had in fulfilling conditions of membership. Two large-scale strikes took place during the year – at Dacia-Renault Pitesti and at Mittal Steel Galati.

Massive shortages of skilled and unskilled Romanian workers (who migrated abroad in search of higher wages) have been filled partly by imported labour from (even more) low-wage countries (e.g., China). Most of them are badly exploited and often victims of human traffickers.

Organising obstructed: The right to form trade unions is not always respected in practice. Some employers try to block the creation of trade unions within companies and even warn workers against discussing unionisation with outsiders. In some cases, employers seek to destroy independent trade unions, which is punishable by law but difficult to prove. Labour inspectorates do not always respect the confidentiality of complaints on violations of workers and union rights, and some employers prefer facing penalties to complying with the law.

It is reported that the most anti-union employers – usually foreign companies – make employment conditional upon the worker agreeing not to create or join a union. Some employers also do not provide their unions with offices, fax machines or telephones and deny unions access to economic and social information. If a trade union leader loses his or her job but keeps the trade union post, the employers often ignore the law and deny him or her access to the workplace to see their members.

Freelancers may lose their job if they try to form or join a trade union.

Collective bargaining problematic: Many employers do not respect the right to collective bargaining and do not accept collective agreements with the trade unions. In the meantime, many collective agreements are not enforced.

Mittal Steel company refuses to bargain: In 2002, the Mittal Group acquired Sidex Sa Galati (now Mittal Steel Galati), the major steel works company in the southeastern Europe. The management's disrespectful attitude to workers and insufficient consideration for health and safety measures led to the extremely high number of industrial accidents, including fatalities. The management also tried to conclude an agreement with nonrepresentative trade unions, which would have been illegal. In April, with a strike looming, the management unsuccessfully tried to get an injunction from the court. The conflict continued at the time of writing.

Insufficient enforcement of labour legislation: The limited number of judicial panels dealing, at the district level, with industrial disputes, and the fact that the labour law specialists can only issue opinions, not binding decisions, has impaired the resolution of labour disputes and the enforcement of trade union rights. Employers have rarely been punished by the courts for their anti-union behaviour. The promised increase in the number of specialist panels did not materialise, but it was reported that the quality and speed of trials dealing with labour disputes had improved in 2004.

Conflict in Wear Company: In January, after the Wear Company in Bacau unilaterally changed employment conditions, some 350 Chinese women migrants went on strike. The women were low-paid and exploited, felt totally isolated in the country due to no language skills, but could not yet return home because they owed large fees to the Chinese intermediary employment agency. The conflict almost became violent, with the company director Sorin Nicolescu declaring that he would "definitely send the protesters back home", and workers allegedly throwing spoons and forks at him. Many of the women have since decided to return voluntarily, since they "lost faith" in the company.

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