By Alina Wolfe Murray (CP) May 19, 2010
BUCHAREST, Romania — Tens of thousands of public workers Wednesday gathered
in the Romanian capital to protest planned government wage cuts meant to
shore up the country’s ailing economy, threatening to call a general strike
if the cuts went ahead.
About 40,000 public workers, teachers, doctors and retirees blew whistles
and yelled “Down with the lying government!” and “You have pawned our
future,” as they protested outside the government offices in downtown
Bucharest. The two-hour protest blocked traffic in the city centre.
In a sign of the anger, economy minister official Marcel Hoara was booed and
pelted with water and stones after he took part in a live televised debate
in the middle of the protest. Police escorted him from the area.
Union leader Iacob Baciu said a general strike will be called May 31 if the
government goes ahead with the planned wage and pension cuts.
Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu has said the number of jobs in the state
sector must be cut by 70,000 by 2011. There are 1.36 million state-paid
“Our salaries are very small. They weren’t good before but with the cuts we
don’t see anything good coming,” said Valentina Voinea, 33, a nurse who
earns 900 lei ($265) a month. “They have cut the number of jobs and medical
care is suffering. I am sorry I haven’t emigrated,” she said.
Unions have rejected the government’s plan to slash public wages by
one-fourth and pensions by 15 per cent. Workers said they feared the
government would hike taxes and consumer taxes in the fall.
“We are aware that the government will not stop at these measures. In a few
months they will increase VAT and the income tax,” said Constantin Dragomir,
a 64-year-old teacher. He said that young teachers would be severely
affected, because their salaries are lower.
Trade union leader Ion Popescu told the crowd: “The government brought us to
the streets. Shame on them! We are asking the government for the right to a
decent life, jobs and a competitive education system.”
The government said the measures are necessary to reduce the budget deficit.
Romania’s average wage is about €450 ($575) a month, and unemployment may
grow to 1 million this year in the nation of 22 million, the International
Monetary Fund said.
Central bank governor Mugur Isarescu said earlier this week that the funds
available in the state budget can cover only 20 days out of every month, for
the other 10 the state must borrow money.
Romania took a €20 billion ($24.86 billion) loan from the IMF, the EU and
the World Bank last year to pay state wages when its economy shrunk by 7.1