Following the joint intervention of some of the most influential and powerful employers' organisations and foreign investors in Romania, the Government is trying to impose a new form of the Work Code which they claim complies with EU requirements, but whose provisions are unfavourable to the interests of the employees.
No less than 276 of the 298 articles of the Work Code are targets of the proposed modifications. These aim at amending the provisions for the setting up of the salary guarantee fund, the terms of hiring and firing, the duty of employers to present the financial situation of the firm to the employees, the limits of the extra working programme, the non-competition clause, the safety and protection of the worker, and other rights hard won in the last 15 years.
The trade union confederations reacted immediately to this threat and, most importantly, were united in action for the first time since 1990. They want to maintain collective work contracts set up at national and branch level, admitting individual work contracts only as an exception to the rule.
Other measures under attack include the duty of employers to provide information about the company, and the social security measures a firm is compelled to render in case of bankruptcy. The unions also want to defend the involvement of trade unions in establishing the work norms and the protection of union leaders at work during their mandate. They want to prevent the employers gaining the right to fire workers at will, and to impose overtime without the consent of the worker.
The current position of the trade unions is the outcome of numerous consultations between the representatives of different confederations. The proposed changes would sweep these away and, say the unions, replace the negotiated settlement of mutual rights and obligations with just employers' rights.
Romanian trade unionists have decided to make use of all the legal means of protest in order to defend their rights. They began their struggle on 21 February by picketing the prefect's offices and other state institutions under the slogan: 'NO to turning employees into slaves of the employers!' Their voice went to Brussels on 19 March, raised amongst those of thousands of other European marchers.