Thursday, July 3, 2008

Romania Workers Urge Minimum Wage Hike

02 July 2008
Bucharest _ Some 4,000 workers from across Romania have launched a protest demanding an 8 percent increase on the minimum wage.

"The protest signals growing unrest in the face of galloping food and fuel prices. We are asking for a minimum monthly wage of Lei 540 (€ 150),” said Bogdan Hossu, the president of the Cartel Alfa trade union. He added the workers are also asking the government to speed up pension rises and subsidise household energy bills.

Like other countries in eastern Europe, Romania is struggling to ease poverty while combating pressures from global price rises and rampant consumer spending that have taken Romanian inflation as high as 8.6 percent this year. More than six million Romanians, almost 28 percent of the country's population, live under the poverty line, according to independent surveys.

In a related development on Tuesday, Romania's ruling centrists dismissed opposition proposals to cushion the impact of soaring food and energy costs on those hardest hit, saying such moves would just hurt the economy more.

The opposition Social Democrat Party proposed a cut in value added tax on staple foods and in fuel taxes for farmers, and also demanding a rise in the minimum wage.

The government said such proposals could hurt its efforts to protect economic stability.

The centrist government plans to keep to a budget deficit target of 2.3 percent of gross domestic product this year and to focus spending on long-term investment in infrastructure.

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