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Romania must live up to international labour standards

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18 June, 2021The annual International Labour Conference (ILC) is currently under way in Geneva discussing, among other things, countries where national legislation actively supports the violation of fundamental labour rights. Romania is the only EU country on the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards’ (CAS) short list, containing 19 countries in total.

Romania introduced new labour legislation in 2011, with a drastic effect on workers and unions. In 2010, all Romanian workers were covered by a collective agreement; by 2017, this number had decreased to 15 per cent. 92 per cent of the collective agreements are not signed by trade unions, but by a single worker, a so called ‘employee representative’. This is the case where the union organizes less than 50 per cent of the workforce.

“To reach the required threshold in such anti-union environment is a challenge,”

says Georg Leutert, IndustriALL auto director.

“And even when the union manages to organize the majority of a plant, Romanian labour legislation still throws a spanner in the works. IndustriALL Global Union used the CAS session on Romania at the 109th ILC to share a concrete example.”

After the union was registered at the plant, the first hurdle was whether the union represented 50 per cent of the workforce. According to the Act concerning Social Dialogue (SDA), the union has to prove the number of members to the competent labour court and provide a document on the total number of employees, issued by the company. By relating the two figures, the court then determines if the 50+1 threshold is met and if the union qualifies for collective bargaining in accordance with the SDA.

The union is then obliged to submit that declaration from the company, but the SDA does not make it obligatory for the company to provide it. The company can simply refuse without any sanctions and therefore prevent any bargaining before it has even started.

One of many particularities of Romanian labour law that actively prevents collective bargaining is an article of the SDA that says that only one collective agreement can be signed between the social partners in a period of twelve months.

“Raising the violations at CAS at this year’s ILC is important and will hopefully lead to a change. Unions in Romania operate in difficult circumstances, and workers and unions need solidarity and support. This is what IndustriALL Global Union, industriAll European Trade Union and IG Metall actively provide,”

says Georg Leutert.