Romanian teachers threaten to boycott exams as public sector pay dispute heats up

Romanian teachers threaten to boycott exams as public sector pay dispute heats up
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest June 1, 2016

Around 8,000 employees of Romania’s education sector protested in the country’s capital Bucharest on June 1, demanding higher salaries. Unhappy teachers even threatened to boycott upcoming exams, according to local media.

The protest follows failed negotiations with government representatives which had been held in the past weeks. The teachers are unhappy a draft emergency ordinance on public sector wages does not envisage any salary raise for employees in the education sector. The bill, which was unveiled on May 17, focuses on raising wages in the healthcare system and ironing out visible discrepancies among the wages earned by employees doing the same work for different public institutions.

Teachers and other education sector employees came from across Romania to join the demonstration. The first to arrive were a bus load of teachers from Giurgiu in the south of the country. As the protest started, one member of the Federation of Free Unions in Education (FSLI), who was unloading banners from a van, told bne IntelliNews that he expected a big turnout. "Teachers are demonstrating because their pay is too low," he said.

The protesters gathered in front of the government’s headquarters and asked for the government’s resignation. They carried banners reading “Save the Romanian education,” “Students, parents, teachers, together for education,” “Decent work, indecent salaries,” and “If you can read this, thank your teacher".

They marched to the Cotroceni Palace, the official residence of the president, a former physics teacher, where a delegation of the trade unions in the education sector met with state councilors.

The latest round of negotiations between the trade unions representatives and the labour ministry failed on May 30. According to FSLI leader Simion Hancescu, the ministry proposed only a 5% salary rise, Mediafax news agency reported at the time.

“The negotiations lasted 30 minutes. We proposed a salary rise of 10% as of January 2017 or of 5% as of August 2016 and an additional 5% rise as of January 2017. The government’s proposal envisaged a 5% correction. We were not happy with it,” Hancescu said.

Labour Minister Dragos Pislaru told Agerpres on May 31 that the government will continue negotiations with trade unions this week and might endorse the ordinance on public sector wages on June 7, one week later than previously announced. The postponement might also be aimed at avoiding trade unions’ protests immediately before the local elections on June 5.

Pislaru suggested on May 31 that the education sector protest was triggered by political interests. “It is absolutely surprising that everybody protests exactly the week before the elections and I can only express my amazement,” Pislaru said, according to Agerpres.

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