Romanian Unions Warn of Huge Protests

Thousands of people are expected to protest in Bucharest on Wednesday against the austerity measures announced by the Romanian government.

“It will be the greatest protest so far,” trade unionist leader Bogdan Hossu said, adding that “after almost ten days of demonstrations, the government has to take a closer look at people’s needs”.

In recent days, thousands of Romanians, from prison guards to pensioners, have taken to the streets to oppose planned cuts to state salaries, pensions and other benefits.

Hundreds of people massed in central Bucharest on Monday, protesting against cuts to childcare allowances in front of the Labour Ministry.

Furthermore, union pickets took place simultaneously outside government and presidency headquarters against planned wage and pension cuts.

Earlier this month, the Romanian government announced that it will cut wages and pensions in the public sector later this year to achieve its 2010 deficit target and comply with an IMF-led rescue deal.

Starting from June 1, state sector wages will be cut by 25 per cent and all salaries, including the minimum wage, will be affected. Jobless benefits and pensions will be cut by 15 per cent.

Recession-hit Romania, which is relying on a €20 billion IMF-led loan, has pledged drastic public spending cuts to rein in its deficit, which this year stands at 6.8 per cent, and restart its economy, which continued to contract in the first quarter.

The IMF recently cut its forecast for economic growth in Romania to 0.8 per cent for this year, as the emerging economy still reels from a painful 7.1 per cent contraction in 2009.

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