Trade unionists in Romania have taken to the streets to protest the ongoing deterioration of their living standard
Autumn has constantly been the season of social protests in the past 30 years of Romanian democracy. The approaching winter, which has always taken Romania's politicians by surprise, is amplifying the fears and discontent of the Romanians. They already have some of the lowest salaries and pensions in the European Union and their purchasing power has been severely affected by the growing inflation rate, up to more than 15% annually.
Prices went through the roof for almost every product, from food to electric appliances and services and experts believe the phenomenon is due to the latest price hikes in energy. The government has come up with a series of incoherent schemes aimed at capping prices and offering subsidies, which unfortunately proved ineffective and fell short of convincing people, who are more and more frightened by the huge electricity and utility bills they are going to get this winter.
Members of a union confederation known as Cartel Alpha mounted a first protest rally in Zalau, north-western Romania, in an attempt to draw attention to the growing electricity prices, which have significantly impacted the business environment, institutions and especially the population.
The unionists say this is only the beginning of a series of protests titled 'The Anti-poverty March, a protest caravan, which is going to cross the country on its way to capital Bucharest, where a large-scale rally is scheduled on October 20th.
"Romania presently has no strategy to cope with the upcoming winter", a trade union leader says. Cartel Alpha has also mounted a protest rally in front of the Mintia Power plant calling for pay rises and price caps as well as for amendments to the Social Dialogue Law. "We want to draw the Romanian government's attention to the deepening energy crisis, which is impoverishing people. We are asking for pay rises and capped energy prices, as well as for the resumption of energy production in coal-fired power stations", says the president of the Hunedoara branch of Cartel Alfa, Cristian Iştoc.
He explained that the site of their protest, the Mintia power plant, hasn't been chosen randomly. The aforementioned energy production unit was shut down in March 2021 and since then electricity prices have increased ten times. "Electricity is more expensive here than in Germany, whereas salaries are four times lower, and that's completely unfair", Iştoc said. The situation in Romania is not singular; tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Prague, Paris, London and Budapest to protest the falling living standards, an indirect but very palpable effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.