Sixty thousand public-sector workers from across Romania rallied in central Bucharest on May 19 to protest against government plans to slash their wages and benefits under a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU).
Civil servants, teachers, doctors and retirees blew whistles and yelled “Down with the lying government!” and “You have pawned our future”, as they protested outside government offices in Victoriei Square.
Romania’s five largest trade union confederations have rejected the government’s plan to slash public-sector wages by 25%, pensions and unemployment benefit by 15% and child rearing allowances by 15%.
The right-wing government of Traian Basescu agreed to make the swinging cuts in return for a €20 billion loan from the US-dominated IMF and the EU to finance its budget deficit.
Union leader Ion Popescu said Basescu’s administration was expecting the poorest in Romania to pull the country out of the deep recession.
“Shame on them”, he said. “We are demanding a system of progressive taxation, the right to a decent life, jobs, a competitive education system.”
The trade unions threatened an all-out general strike on May 31 unless the government scrapped the austerity measures it has cooked up with IMF and EU bureaucrats.
Cartel Alfa union confederation leader Bogdan Hossu said: “People are desperate and they urge us not to surrender — we’ll block the economy as of next week until the government gets the message.”
[Abridged from Morning Star.]