2013–14 Romanian social unrest
|2013–14 Romanian social unrest|
|Date||January 11, 2013–present|
|Location||Dozens of cities in Romania and Romanian diaspora|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|*The fatalities resulted from two suicides and a heart attack.|
The 2013 Romanian social unrest is a wave of protests and civil unrest triggered in mid-January 2013 by unpaid wages and working conditions. Among the protesters' demands include the resignation of the current government of Romania, accused of negligence and incompetence. Many people consider that the current government has not respected the promises of the 2012 legislative elections.
Initiated with tense protests in large factories and companies in the country, the Romanian protest movement of 2013 gained momentum in September and the following months, more and more people took to the streets to shout their grievances against the current government. In a great measure peaceful, the protests degenerated, in some situations, in fierce clashes between protesters and law enforcers.
According to some uncredited sources, the Romanian protests of 2013 are the largest since the Revolution of 1989. Journalists from Gândul, a Romanian daily newspaper affiliated with the curent out-going president Basescu, wrote in an article: "This is the first time in 24 years when on the street was born a genuine protest movement, politically unfunded or maintained by any trade union, therefore, very different from all the protests in recent years. Unlike the winter of 2012, when a genuine massive protest also broke, and was noted by fierce violence, the fall of 2013 rather aligned to movements like «occupy» and «indignados» in Europe, USA and Turkey". Many believe that Romanians have lost confidence in the succeeding governments and in the state institutions.
- 1 Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea employees protests
- 2 Romanian Post employees protests
- 3 Mechel Câmpia Turzii employees protests
- 4 Hidroelectrica employees protests
- 5 Transports employees protests
- 6 Miners protests
- 7 Student strikes and teachers' grievances
- 8 Doctors protests
- 9 Protests against new Penal Code
- 10 2014 protests
- 11 See also
- 12 References
Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea employees protests
Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea, one of the largest chemical companies in Romania, recorded losses of €90.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, thus ended the year with a negative result of 270 million lei, by 20.9% over 2010 levels. Reducing expenses and liabilities had a clear impact on the nearly 4,000 employees. The judicial administrator of Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea, Gheorghe Piperea, decided to lay off between 1,000 and 1,200 employees since April 15, 2013. Unannounced layoffs and unpaid wages triggered massive unrest and large protests in Râmnicu Vâlcea and Bucharest. Several attempts to privatize the plant took place from the beginning of this year. Former Minister of Public Finance, Varujan Vosganian, said that Oltchim urgently needs €15 million to recover. The European Commission is reluctant to give aid. Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea became insolvent, the application of triggering this procedure being approved on January 30 by the Vâlcea County Court.
Since the beginning of February 2013, hundreds of employees protested in front of the Administrative Pavilion in Râmnicu Vâlcea, dissatisfied that they have not received salary arrears. People demanded the resignation of plant leadership and they booed the director of Oltchim, Mihai Bălan and Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The manifestations were also supported by Bradu Petrochemical Division employees, that blocked in sign of protest the national road DN 65B. Some protesters resorted to extreme methods of protest, such as hunger strikes.
On March 28, nearly 1,500 employees of Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea protested against wage arrears and unannounced layoffs, blocking the traffic on national road DN 64. Dozens of gendarmes and policemen moved on site, where they deviated the traffic on secondary routes. A protester was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing. The driver who caused the accident fled the scene, but was later caught by other protesters.
On March 30, at the request of Oltchim's syndicates, prefect Mircea Nadolu called a meeting with the President of Vâlcea County Council, Ion Cîlea, the Mayor of Râmnicu Vâlcea, Emilian Frâncu, county lawmakers and syndicates representatives from the chemical plant. They discussed about eventual layoffs and demanded even an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ponta on the situation of Oltchim.
The protests continued in the following months, with the same demands. Thus, on July 4, over 200 employees, dissatisfied with the situation of the salaries, have stopped working and joined a spontaneous protest. Prefect wanted to reassure them, but was bullied by workers. Some of the protesters stormed the company's headquarters and have threatened to go on hunger strike. Economy Minister, Varujan Vosganian, said he would go to Oltchim, together with the Minister for Social Dialogue, Doina Pană. Likewise, Vosganian assured that all 1,000 laid-off workers from Oltchim will receive the amounts for holidays during the period in which they haven't worked.
On 2 December, 10 employees of the Oltchim chemical plant went on hunger strike, after negotiations with the Director of Oltchim failed. Two of them needed perfusions, being diagnosed with hypoglycemia.
Romanian Post employees protests
Causes of protests
The Romanian Post National Company includes annual losses of over €40 million. This is why the authorities have pledged to privatize it until July 2013. Likewise, the leadership announced that in the next period will be laid off over 3,650 employees. This sudden decision displeased the employees. They fear of wage cuts and mass layoffs.
Course of protests
|Protest of postmen on YouTube|
|Oltchim and Arpechim employees protest in Bucharest on YouTube|
|Mechel employees protest in Oțelu Roșu on YouTube|
|Metrorex meeting on YouTube|
|Thousands of miners protested in Târgu Jiu on YouTube|
Since the beginning of February 2013, mass protests of the Romanian Post employees broke out in several cities across Romania. There is a short list of significant protests throughout 2013:
- February 12: Over two thousand employees of Romanian Post protested for fear that they will lose their jobs and that the institution will be abusively privatized. They demanded the resignation of Minister of Communications, Dan Nica and Director General of the Romanian Post, Ion Smeeianu. SLPR leader, Matei Brătianu, said that "after the meeting, it began a campaign of persecution and intimidation in some counties".
- February 28: Nearly 5,000 syndicate members protested in several cities across Romania to draw the attention of public opinion and political decision-makers, regarding many problems facing CNPR and employees of this company.
- May 13: Over 3,000 postmen across the country protested against working conditions. In Bucharest, over 1,500 postmen of 21 post offices have stopped working. Employees of 15 post offices in Cluj County also went on strike. This spontaneous strike affected over 3.7 million pensioners. Prime Minister Victor Ponta promptly stigmatized the strike, saying that late payment of pensions is "inadmissible".
Mechel Câmpia Turzii employees protests
Situation of Mechel Câmpia Turzii
In 2003, before privatization, Mechel Câmpia Turzii counted over 5,600 employees. After last layoffs there were only 300 workers, but the outlook is bleak for them. Seven dossiers in which is required the insolvency of Mechel Câmpia Turzii were opened at Cluj Tribunal. An application belongs even to Mechel company, that blames concrete steel imports for the situation that the plant reached. Mechel representatives submitted a list of debts, that amounts about 581.8 million lei:
- to employees – 3.3 million lei;
- to Mechel International Holding – 215 million lei;
- to National Agency for Tax Administration – 106.5 million lei;
- to Câmpia Turzii Town Hall – 2 million lei;
- to various companies – 254.7 million lei.
Russian group Mechel recently sold, for the symbolic price of 230 lei (52 euros), the integrated steelworks which it held in Romania, heavily indebted, to Invest Nikarom company in Bucharest, controlled by two people with Russian citizenship.
Course of protests
- March 15: Over a hundred former employees of Mechel Câmpia Turzii protested in front of the plant against unpaid wages. At one point, one of the protesters attached an overall to plant's fence, sprinkled it with benzine, then burned it.
- March 27: Six protesters went on hunger strike. One of them lost consciousness and was taken to hospital in serious condition.
Hidroelectrica employees protests
Low demand and large supply of electricity reached to create problems to Hidroelectrica. On April 2013, Hidroelectrica has managed to sell only two energy packs of 18 offers performed on OPCOM, and those only 165 lei/MWh, price that includes transportation component. More than that, company became insolvent on June 20, 2012. Since then, the company recorded a loss of almost €50 million and gave up more than 300 employees. The receiver of the company also announced that, until early summer, nearly 700 employees will be laid off.
|Year||Production of electricity||Hidroelectrica profit|
|2007||15.7 TWh||15.7 million euros|
|2008||17 TWh||17.6 million euros|
|2009||15.5 TWh||11.4 million euros|
|2010||19.8 TWh||69.4 million euros|
|2011||14.4 TWh||3.7 million euros|
|2012||11.8 TWh||38.1 million euros|
- Source: DIGI 24
This situation displeases the employees that launched a series of protests throughout the year. The largest protest took place on May 18, 2013, when over 1,500 employees of companies Hidroelectrica and Hidroserv manifested in front of the Government, contesting the layoffs.
Transports employees protests
Romanian Railways protests
Some of the employees of CFR Călători and CFR Infrastructură triggered a spontaneous strike, on January 16, dissatisfied that they have not received full wages for December 2012. Following the protest, 138 trains were blocked in several railway stations in the country, including Bucharest, Craiova, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Galați and Constanța. The Minister of Transport, Relu Fenechiu, said that he will make an analysis and those responsible will pay.
On May 31, more than 400 CFR employees and siderurgists protested in front of the Ministry of Transport. Those from CFR were dissatisfied with the fact that wages have been reduced, while the siderurgists blamed the energy surcharge for large consumers.
On June 18, nearly 100 employees of CFR Marfă protested in front of the Ministry of Transport. People were dissatisfied with the privatization of the company, but also with the unpaid supplementary hours in recent years.
On July 25, more than 2,500 CFR syndicalists protested in front of the Ministry of Transport. From there they marched to the Government, where manifested fo 45 minutes. Employees are dissatisfied with the large number of layoffs and disagree with the privatization of CFR Marfă. Trade unionists also protested against the intention of SNTFM CFR Marfă SA management to reduce working time from five to four days per week, with the decline in the income of employees. Road traffic in the Victory Square was restricted during the CFR syndicalists protest.
Metrorex syndicalists, supported by CFR and RATB employees, organized, on March 6, a meeting in front of the Ministry of Transport. The meeting was followed by a protest march to Victory Square. Employees were dissatisfied with the lack of funds for further investment in Metrorex and freezing of budget for salaries.
Lorry drivers' strike
On 9 December, over 86,000 lorry drivers across the country went on indefinite strike. Dissatisfied with the increase in fuel duty by 7 euro cents, but also with the fact that the Ministry of Transport doesn't fulfill its promises, they blocked for several hours the traffic on ring roads of major cities. Retailers fear they will run out of products needed in the warehouse, due to the strike of freight transporters.
On January 11, at least 307 miners blocked themselves in Lupeni coal mine, refusing to leave the workplace at the end of the program, because they were dissatisfied with salaries that were reduced due to non-fulfillment of the productivity plan.
Such event have taken place on May 11, when over 100 miners in Paroșeni refused to get out of underground at the end of the program. People are dissatisfied that power plants in Hunedoara County don't take the pit coal, and in the mining unit there's no place for storing coal. The exploitation in this area is suspended.
On May 30, 4,000 miners of Oltenia Energy Complex attended a protest march in Târgu Jiu. Local authorities have not allowed televisions the access to miners rally, to film the manifestation. Although initially announced their presence over 5,000 people, many of them renounced the protest for fear of dismissal. People claimed that the company's management has resorted to methods of intimidation. One of the main reasons for the protest is the layoff of about 5,000 people by 2018.
In mid-June, 21 employees of Lonea coal mine protested underground, dissatisfied that the National Coal Company management representatives decided to forcibly send them in resting furlough. All protesters were sanctioned with 200 lei. This amount was paid by the syndicate, not by the 21 miners. Likewise, the chief of miners received an administrative penalty, respectively a reduction of 5 percent of salary and a 5 percent of the increment of leadership for a month.
On 10 March 2014, a number of 24 union leaders from the Jiu Valley coal mines went on hunger strike, dissatisfied with the fact that the Hunedoara Labor Inspectorate opposed the registration of an addendum to the collective labor agreement, through which miners would receive an increase of 100 lei to hazard pay.
Jiu Valley miners' strike
On July 18, over 450 miners from Paroșeni, Petrila and Uricani coal mines blocked themselves underground, refusing to leave the workplace at the end of the program. The next morning, the number of protesters came to 1,100. On the surface, 300 other people manifested in solidarity with them. Miners were dissatisfied that the coal production performed at the three mines wasn't taken by the Hunedoara Energy Complex, fact that significantly affected their income.
Negotiations between the Director of National Society for Mine Closures in Jiu Valley and protesting miners failed, after the miners didn't accept the solution proposed by Petre Drăgoescu. Most of the protesters requested the intervention of Prime Minister Victor Ponta in defusing the conflict triggered in the three coal mines. President of the Trade Union Huila, Domokos László, said that the miners asked to see a written contract in which is ensured the takeover of coal. Prime Minister Victor Ponta said the Economy Minister Vosganian will be present in the Jiu Valley to discuss the miners who refused to leave the ground.
In a sign of desperation, nearly 500 employees of Paroșeni coal mine went on hunger strike. 19 protesters sought medical care, one of them being transported in serious condition to the hospital.
The Director of SNIMVJ, Petre Drăgoescu, resigned shortly after the Government decided that the company should go to the Ministry of Energy, and it will be headed by a representative of PSD. Petre Drăgoescu said he resigned to "defuse the situation" in the Jiu Valley.
Student strikes and teachers' grievances
Early 2013 protests
On May 21, over 2,000 students in Covasna County went on Japanese strike, inasmuch as the Ministry of Education hasn't settled, since October 2012, money for commuting subscriptions. Those 2,000 students that went on Japanese strike, wearing white banderoles on arm, are from 15 high schools in the cities of Sfântu Gheorghe, Târgu Secuiesc, Covasna and Baraolt. Furthermore, students in Covasna organized a protest meeting. The Ministry of Education has accumulated, from October to March, a debt of more than 1.6 million lei for settlement of students commuting subscriptions in Covasna County.
Likewise, around 150 students from high schools throughout the Mureș County went on indefinitely Japanese strike, in solidarity with the colleagues which were not settled money for commuting subscriptions. The same measure of protest was adopted by hundreds of students in Constanța County, according to that are violated the rights under the Education Act through art. 84 (3).
In Cluj County, Ministry of Education didn't settle any money for seven months. Accumulated debts amount to more than 3.5 million lei, 3,100 commuter students being affected by this situation.
Late 2013 strikes
On November 13, thousands of students from 11 universities in Bucharest, Timișoara, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Constanța, Galați, Baia Mare, Sibiu, Suceava, Oradea and Alba Iulia took to the streets to protest the underfunding of the education system. In solidarity with the students, pupils from dozens of schools and high schools went on Japanese strike. Students chanted slogans against the Government and demanded allocation of 6% of GDP for education: "We want a school for all, not a Government of mobsters", "Finance the education or leave the Government". According to the Romanian press, the event is one of the largest student movements in recent years.
Romania still faces issues related to education. Among them, can be mentioned the teachers' low wages. In Romania, a teacher is paid with 9.3 lei net (2.09 euros) per hour, compared to other European countries, where wages are up to 40 times higher. These disparties have sparked teachers' dissatisfactions. Thus, teachers and education syndicates have taken a number of measures to "wake" the attention of those governing the country.
On July 18, Spiru Haret Federation of Education Unions submitted to the registry of the Government nine binders containing hundreds of petitions with 40,532 signatures of people, to unlock non-teaching and auxiliary teaching posts and change the salary scale. Trade unionists consider that the education system is facing a shortage of non-teaching and auxiliary teaching staff, and blocking posts, but also low salaries, below subsistence, led to a situation that can turn into a tragedy.
Several higher education institutions in the country risk to be forcibly executed by university professors and members of the auxiliary staff that have not received the salaries recorded by final and irrevocable decisions of the courts. Such an approach has already happened at Valahia University of Târgoviște, institution that was forcibly executed in February 2013. More than that, in August, over 10,000 university professors demanded the forced execution of Ministry of Education.
On November 4, over 1,000 teachers gathered to protest near the Palace of the Parliament. Teachers require the granting of six percent of GDP for education, amending the National Education Law, a special law for the education staff salaries, de-bureaucratization of educational act, depoliticization of pre-university education system and real unlocking of auxiliary teaching and non-teaching posts. Symbolically dressed in clothes made of paper, some teachers have walked in front of the parliament, bearing placards with the message "Break the chain of bureaucracy" and dragging balls signifying bureaucracy, chained to their legs.
On November 6, more than 10,000 teachers protested in Victory Square in the capital, claiming the allocation of 6% of GDP for education. Protesters demanded the resignation of the Minister of Education through an epigram and accused the government of lying. A delegation of trade unionists in education was received at the Victoria Palace for discussions related to union demands. In Cluj-Napoca several students went on Japanese strike, in solidarity with teachers protesting in the capital.
Over 150 doctors, stomatologists and nurses protested, on September 18, in front of the Ministry of Health, requiring a minimum allocation of 6% of GDP on health, wage increase and guarantee by law the professional independence of those working in the field. Such picketings were held for two weeks, both in front of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance. The protests are the largest since 1998 and are known in local media as Protest of white robes (Romanian: Protestul halatelor albe).
On November 2, nearly 7,000 doctors, nurses and dentists marched on Victory Avenue, towards the Palace of the Parliament. The manifestation, called March of Silence (Romanian: Marșul Tăcerii), was joined by medical staff across the country. Demonstrators leaned against the wall of the Palace of the Parliament a cross and nearly 20 wreaths, thus suggesting the "death of Health" in Romania.
After three rounds of failed negotiations with the Minister of Health, on November 25, more than 130,000 health professionals from across the country have triggered a warning strike between 8 and 10 o'clock. During this time, polyclinics were closed, and hospitals operated only in medical emergencies. Marius Sepi, first vice-president of Sanitas Federation, stated that the strike was affected by some hospital managers that threatened the protesters. Even the Minister of Health, Eugen Nicolăescu, considered the strike illegal and said he didn't know if it's possible to increase wages.
Protests against new Penal Code
The Chamber of Deputies passed, on 10 December, a bill in which the president and MPs are removed from the category of civil servants under the Penal Code. After the Romanian parliament passed the amendments, media outlets marked the day as "the Black Tuesday" of Romanian democracy. The same day, Chamber approved a draft amendment to the Penal Code rejected by the Senate in October 2012, by changing the article on conflict of interest, being eliminated the category of civil servants.
On 14 December, nearly 1,500 people attended a meeting organized by People's Movement Party, in sign of protest against new Penal Code. After the start of the meeting, Marian Preda, Daniel Funeriu and former Prime Minister Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu gave speeches, addressing the audience via megaphone. Those attending the protest chanted slogans against Ponta Government.
The next day, a similar protest took place in Bucharest and was attended by more than 2,000 people. Unlike the previous, this was more violent. Large herds of gendarmes formed cordons to prevent protesters moving towards the Government headquarters. Angry crowd broke the cordons, and gendarmes used tear gas to avoid blocking traffic. After the altercations, four protesters were seized by gendarmes and taken to the police station. They were questioned and fined for disturbing public peace and order. One of the protesters was transported to the Floreasca Hospital with a wound to the head.
On 21 December, more than 5,000 people attended a protest in Bucharest against all political classes and new Penal Code. The protest was held under the slogan 21-22 we want the democracy back (Romanian: 21-22 vrem democrația înapoi). Mobilized on social networks, protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta and President Traian Băsescu, but also the dissolution of Parliament. Throughout the protest, demonstrators lit candles in memory of victims of the 1989 Revolution. There were deployed hundreds of henchmen, equipped for intervention, with batons and tear gas guns, vans and water cannons. Protesters threw stones and bottles at vehicles of the Gendarmerie and accused the gendarmes of defending thievery.
Amendments to the Penal Code were strongly contested by President Traian Băsescu, who said that he will return to the Parliament the law through which the president and MPs are removed from the category of civil servants. The Head of State said that the amendments to the Penal Code adopted by the Chamber are "dramatic" and "tear down ten years of work and activity of anticorruption institutions" such as National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) or National Integrity Agency (ANI). The President mentioned in a TV show about the dissolution of Parliament, invoking the breach of the Copenhagen criteria through these amendments to the Penal Code.
The National Anticorruption Directorate showed that, following the changes to the Penal Code, lawmakers indicted for corruption or similar to that misdemeanor might be acquitted, and those detained through final sentence might be set free. President of the National Integrity Agency, Horia Georgescu, also said that, following the changes, "will be created a superimmunity", and "the history of ANI cases will be thrown up for 25 MPs".
The Superior Council of Magistracy has criticized changes to the Penal Code, emphasizing that it hadn't receive them for approval, as required by law. Legal Committee of the Chamber of Deputies said in a statement that it had no obligation to seek the opinion of SCM.
The Democratic Liberal Party submitted, on 12 December, to the Constitutional Court, two notices about the changes adopted Tuesday by the Chamber of Deputies to the Penal Code, one aimed at defining civil servant and the other one referring to the conflict of interest. Likewise, the High Court of Cassation and Justice notified the Constitutional Court on the same subject. The concerns expressed by about 50 PDL lawmakers were confirmed by the Constitutional Court of Romania. So, on 15 January 2014, the members of the Constitutional Court unanimously decided that the amendments to the Penal Code are unconstitutional. CCR judges decided that the article which removes the officials from the category of public servants breaches several articles of the Constitution concerning the rule of law, the equal rights of citizens and the Romanian State's obligation to fulfill in good faith its obligations in international treaties.
In a press conference, PSD deputy Eugen Nicolicea rejected accusations on new Penal Code, saying that press masked the truth.
- In a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, U.S. Embassy sent a very harsh reaction to the changes of the Penal Code. "This action of Parliament represents a departure from the principles of transparency and the rule of law and is a discouraging signal to investors, that will adversely affect the economy of Romania". The U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Daniel B. Baer, said, on 20 December, that the United States are concerned about the recent amendments to the Penal Code and warned that ratification of these amendments will result in weakening the rule of law in Romania.
- Similar reactions also came from the European Commission. The European Commission warns that public officials, regardless of the institution they work for, must obey rules against conflicts of interest and corruption. "This change was not raised at any time. From our point of view, it's a decision that we didn't expect", said Mark Gray, spokesman for the European Commission.
- British Ambassador to Bucharest, Martin Harris, says he is "worried" for changes to the Penal Code. "It is very discouraging that these changes were adopted without any consultation, any debate and any opportunity for the representatives of the judiciary authority and members of civil society to comment about the proposed amendments", shows the reaction of the embassy.
- The German Embassy took a stand against the amendments to the Penal Code, announcing that seeks "with attention and concern the current legislative measures".
- The Netherlands Embassy in Bucharest stated that seeks with concern the amendments to the Penal Code and expects the future developments.
- Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, stated for Radio France Internationale that the amendment of the Penal Code contravenes the values of the EU and is a real step backwards for the country.
On 8 February, up to 15,000 people gathered in George Enescu Square, Bucharest, to protest against Ponta Government and the party he leads. The protest was organized by PDL leaders, being attended by people from all PDL branches in the country. During the meeting, Vasile Blaga, president of the party and Cătălin Predoiu, PDL candidate for the presidential election in November, gave speeches to the girded crowd. Cătălin Predoiu said that "USL pushes Romania in poverty, it snaps to justice through penals and mafia" and that "in Ponta-Antonescu regime people are thrown in the streets", denouncing the "immorality of Ponta Government". Theodor Stolojan, former Prime Minister of Romania, stated that "the place of Ponta's ministers is in jail". About 300 gendarmes secured the public order.
On 5 March, nearly 11,000 people, members of syndicate from Automobile Dacia and their families, protested on the plateau of House of Culture in Mioveni, demanding the construction of Pitești-Sibiu motorway, the support of vocational education and the amendment of the Labour Code.
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