ETF warns Commission: Attacks on EU core social values in Romania’s transport sector are still rampant

6 Jul 2021

In a follow-up to previous letters, the ETF wrote to the EU Commission President, Vice-President and Commissioners Vălean and Schmit to inform them of the deteriorating situation in Bucharest metro, the attacks on labour rights and call for a meeting to discuss the way forward.

What’s happening in Romania is without precedent and is a huge blow to social dialogue and EU fundamental rights and values.

The situation in Bucharest metro dates back to the beginning of this year, when Metrorex, a state-owned company that runs the Bucharest metro, fully backed by the Romanian government, revealed plans to cancel the collective bargaining agreement in place and lay off workers, despite the Metro system being hugely understaffed and regularly confronted with safety incidents. Both Metrorex and the Romanian government refuse to engage in social dialogue with metro workers’ trade union, USLM.

Most recently, the Metrorex company challenged in court the collective labour agreement they themselves signed in October 2020 with the USLM. Workers who took part in a spontaneous action in March are now called in court individually, forced to make false statements under pressure and intimidation i.e. to state that USLM coordinated the action.

This adds to a long list of abuses by Metrorex that completely discredit the European Union and its social values. At the top of this list:

  • The complaint filed by the Minister of Transport against the protesters, soon after the spontaneous protest action, to the Directorate for Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorist Acts DIICOT. For clear, legal reasons, DIICOT declined the case; for the record, the spontaneous protest had sparked constant threats, from January onwards, of pay and job cuts in the Bucharest metro system
  • The significant delays (several months) by Metrorex in transferring the union membership fees collected from thousands of metro workers, to USLM, against the law and the CBA provisions, as a means to cut the union off from its much-needed resources
  • The cuts in company subsidies for metro workers’ recovery leave, a benefit that had been long in place to compensate for decades of underinvestment in the metro system, and particularly in the quality of workplace and working conditions
  • The threats of job cuts, in the context where Metrorex has to call retired workers back to work and fails to guarantee legal levels of leave for existing personnel to mitigate the chronic shortage of staff
  • Over 20 formal USLM requests to establish a dialogue with Metrorex and the Ministry of Transport on all the above issues. In reply to these, most recently, the Minister of Transport declared that meeting the USLM is neither opportune nor urgent, nor necessary
  • The attempts to evict the USLM from their central offices, which are key to the good and effective functioning of the union
  • The worrying delays in approving the 2021 Metrorex budget, while lack of investment in the metro system and safety equipment puts the safety of workers and operation at huge risk – the rate of operational safety incidents in the Metro of Bucharest has soared

Moreover, despite conditions set out by the European Commission, there have been no consultations with transport trade unions on Romania’s National Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan.

The above indicates that attempts to undermine the trade union movement in Romania continue to escalate and spread. Most transport trade unions from Romania face the problems highlighted above.

We call on the European Commission to listen to the concerns of its transport workers before it’s too late and meet with us to discuss the next steps to be taken.

You can read our full letter here.

To support Bucharest metro workers and tell Metrorex and the Romanian government to stop attacking labour rights, you can sign your name to our LabourStart Petition.