Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Thousands Demonstrate Against Romanian Government

On 16 March over 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Romanian parliament during a a no-confidence vote on the present government. The demonstration was organised to protest primarily against the reform of the labour law that will make it easier to fire people and work longer hours.

Romania has been one of the countries most harshly affected by the economic crisis in Europe. In 2009 its economy contracted by more than 7% and it was forced to turn to the IMF, the EU and the World Bank to obtain a combined loan of $20bn. The conditions placed on this loan were - inevitably - tough and the funds were only released once the government agreed a series of spending cuts to bring down its budget deficit.

The measures initially announced by the government included cutting public sector wages by 25% and pensions by 15%. However, following a wave of protests, the cuts in pensions were declared to be unconstitutional by the Romanian constitutional court. The government responded by raising VAT 5 percentage points to 24%, announcing cuts in public sector jobs and introducing a series of social spending cuts. The present proposal to reform the labour code is part of this overall programme.

The vote of no-confidence in the government initially took place in December last year. However, the vote had to be postponed as in the middle of the debate a television worker - Adrian Sobaru - threw himself off the balcony in parliament in protest at the government's decision to cut benefits for disabled children. Sobaru's son has autism and he has since become a symbol for the protests.

You can view Sobaru's protest here. The images are graphic and disturbing but they reveal the anguish of those suffering due to the policies of austerity being introduced in one of Europe's poorest countries.

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