The austerity measures announced by the Romanian government two weeks ago have already begun to ratchet up the tension, with rallies taking place last week and more announced for the weeks to come.
In protest at the significant cuts in pensions and salaries, the biggest demonstration Bucharest has seen for the last 19 years was staged last week in Victoria Square, with some 50,000 participants voicing their opposition to the measures.
Trade unions leaders have also announced that a general strike will begin on May 31, with all public sector activities halted for an indefinite period. The paralysis will be compounded by further street protests at the same time, say unionists.
Bogdan Hossu, president of Cartel Alfa, warned last week that the trade unions would start a “war of attrition” with the government if it adopted the IMF letter of intention in its current form and would also start a general strike with the aim of overthrowing the government. “We are aware that the situation is austere, but we don’t agree with only some of us paying. We want half-solutions,” said Hossu. Trade unions, which oppose the reduction of salaries and pensions, have asked the government to issue a new letter to the IMF that includes their measures.
As a result of negotiations with the IMF, the Romanian authorities have proposed that public sector salaries be cut by 25 percent, and pensions and unemployment benefit by 15 percent instead of increasing the main taxes – VAT and the flat tax.