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Romanian workers stage 2,000km protest against low pay

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By Euronews
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Caravan of Social Rights. ETUC/ES
Caravan of Social Rights. ETUC/ES   -   Copyright  Euronews
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A group of 13 Romanian workers completed a four-day rolling protest on Monday between Bucharest and Brussels over the low wages and working conditions that force their fellow citizens to make similar journeys in order to find decent work.

The “Caravan of Social Rights” made up of the Cartel Alfa trade union set off on Friday, stopping in Budapest, Vienna, Munich and Luxembourg to stage protests outside Romanian embassies with the support of the cities' local trade unions.

The group also held meetings with the European Commission to express their concern at how economic growth in Romania over the past ten years hasn't translated into a better quality of life for so-called "working people".

Romania has one of the lowest average salaries in the EU at just €460 per month and now faces a difficult situation, according to the president of the country's National Confederation of Trade Union, Bogdan Iuliu Hossu, with many citizens leaving the country for other EU member states.

"The initiative of the Commission was supported by most of the workers because it is the only way to escape the poverty which is everywhere in Romania," Hossu told Euronews.

"Now, we have over 4.4 million citizens who have left the country and if things don't change in the next two years, we could reach up to seven or eight million Romanian citizens who will be leaving because they cannot find work, and at the same time the work they find in Romania is unacceptable and a very low level."

In October, the European Commission presented a proposal for having an adequate minimum wage across the whole of the EU. The goal is for all European workers to have their pay set at a fair level, to help them live decently.

But any EU-wide minimum wage would be different in each country, depending on the economic situation.

The proposal is currently being discussed by both the European Parliament and Council but is facing opposition.

European Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, Luca Visentini, told Euronews that the situation in Romania is unacceptable and must be addressed.

"We expect that the European Commission will finally intervene in the Romanian situation. We cannot tolerate that in a country where we have among the lowest salaries in Europe, where the working conditions have been significantly affected by the pandemic, and where poverty levels are so high, we cannot accept that the Commission simply ignores the situation," Visentini said on Monday.

"The Romanian government has implemented horrible reforms that have dismantled completely social dialogue and collective bargain in the country."

The directive could be a game-changer for Eastern European countries, like Bulgaria, Slovenia and Hungary which are also struggling with low salaries.

Opposition is coming mainly from Nordic countries though, that fear a lowering in their working conditions and in their collective bargaining traditions.