The general strike, annihilated by the fear of layoffs

Cătălin Deacu (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section /

The general strike, annihilated by the fear of layoffs

Public sector workers refuse to stop work, at the behest of the union leaders, for fear of being laid off, as part of the restructuring agreed with the IMF this winter 

The fear that they could lose their jobs has caused most of the employees in the public sector to reject the call of union leaders to go on a spontaneous strike.

This is the explanation provided by the leaders of the union confederations, when asked by BURSA, on what they thought was the cause of the low number of employees in the public sector which stopped working on Wednesday, between 12 and 16 o"clock, when a protest had been scheduled.

"The people got scared and are refusing to go on strike, because they know that a new wave of layoffs will come by the end of the year, as per the agreement between the IMF and the Government", said Petru Dandea, the vice-president of CNS Cartel ALFA, who said that he understands the fears of the employees.

Relatives and favorites aren"t rocking the boat

Petru Dandea also said that there is another, lesser, reason that is causing some of the employees in the public sector to refrain from protesting, is the fact that the system is extremely politicized and many jobs are given through favoritism.

Petru Dandea explained: "On Tuesday, the day before the protest, I talked to all the union leaders and they told me that people are not willing to go on strike because they are afraid. People would rather put up with having their wages cut by 25%, just so they can keep their jobs. It is well known that such restructurings are usually abused, and the people who are the most vulnerable are those who are not related with the management or they weren"t hired through someone"s intervention. There are some institutions where employees refused to go on strike precisely because they had a privileged relationship with the management".

It is estimated that approximately 100,000 public sector workers out of a total of 1.3 million have a "special relationship" with their managers, according to the deputy union leader.

Restructuring criteria: "The clever ones will keep their jobs"

The vice-president of Cartel ALFA, Petru Dandea, also said that he does not rule out the possibility of seeing protests occur this winter, like the one that happened in the Ministry of Finance, once public sector workers see their expenses rise.

Ion Popescu, the president of the Meridian confederation, said that another explanation for the low number of public sector workers that stopped their work is the fact that prefects threatened them.

Ion Popescu said: "Prefects issued threats, people are terrorized, and if we find out that they are being subjected to abuse, we will go to court. It remains to be seen based on what criteria the layoffs will be made, and if will be < the clever ones that will keep their jobs, as it usually happens >".

Resignation for the time being: "We"ll nail them when we vote, in 2012"

Sorin Stan, the secretary general of CNSLR Frăţia, claims that, due to the 1Romanian legislation which is very hostile to workers, "going on general strike is almost impossible in Romania," and many of the unionists are already thinking about the elections of 2012. "We"ll nail them in 2012 when the elections come, just like they nailed us", Stan said.

As part of the agreement with the IMF, the government has decided that by the end of the year it would lay off 26,000 public sector employees, according to Andreea Vass, the economic advisor to the PM Emil Boc, after another 24,000 people had been fired earlier.

IT needs to be reminded that the major unions had announced, prior to the meeting of October 17th, that they would launch an unlimited general strike on October 17th, if the Parliament didn"t pass the vote of no-confidence of the opposition.

The budget for wages in the public sector: 39 billion lei 

As agreed by the Government and the IMF, the budget allocated for wages in the public sector in 2011 will amount to 39 billion lei.

According to the government, new layoffs will be needed this winter, according to the members of the government, as the decision to cut public sector wages by 25% will expire on December 31st, 2010.

Next year, the wages of public sector workers will be increased by 16 to 18%, according to some evaluations, and these additional expenses will be compensated by laying off 26,000 people this winter.

"Out of the 1,316,047 people still employed in the public sector, at least 26,047 more will be laid off by the end of the year, in order to reduce the number of public sector workers to 1,290,000, which would be paid out of the 39 billion lei allotted for wages in the public sector in the year 2011", Andrea Vass explained, according to Agerpres. According to the quoted source, the number of employees in the public sector has dropped by almost 83,000 since December 2008.

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