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Industrial relations in Romania - background summary

  • Collective labour relations are regulated by Act No 62/2011 on social dialogue, which was adopted in the context of the economic crisis. This Act has been strongly criticised because it has weakened the role of the social partners and reduced trade union rights. It has also forcibly decentralised collective bargaining.
  • Employees are collectively represented by trade union organisations: trade union at company level, trade union federation at sector level, and trade union confederation at national level.
  • In Romania, there are five representative trade union confederations at national level:
    • Confederaţia Naţională a Sindicatelor Libere din România-Frăţia (CNSLR-Frăția): the largest confederation, with over 800 000 members, according to data published on its website, and 28 trade union federations.
    • Confederația Națională Sindicală Cartel Alfa: the second largest trade union confederation, with an estimated 400 000 members, although, according to data published on its website, it has 1 million members and comprises 41 trade union federations.
    • Blocul National Sindical (BNS) consists of 40 trade union federations and has 320 000 members in the private and public sectors.
    • Confederația Sindicatelor Democratice din România (CSDR) has around 350 000 members.
    • Confederația Sindicală Națională Meridian (CSN Meridian) has around 170 000 members.
    The figures published in 2012 on the Ministry of Labour’s website differ from those published by the trade union confederations because, according to the Ministry, the five trade union confederations had a total of 1 432 266 members, out of 4 449 100 employees in Romania (according to these figures, CNSLR-Frăţia had 306 486 members; Cartel Alfa, 301 785 members; BNS, 254 527 members; CSDR, 249 264 members and Meridian, 320 204 members).
  • There are no official statistics on trade union density, and the trade unions are generally reluctant to reveal the number of their members. It is therefore very difficult to provide accurate information. According to the International Labour Organization, trade union density is less than 20 % [1] (19.8 % in 2013). Previously, trade union density was estimated at 33 % [2] or 40 % [3]. According to the trade unions, it is between 40 % and 50 % (around 3 million employees).
  • Since the fall of Communism, there has been a downward trend in trade union density: in 1990 this was around 80 %, with 6 million trade union members. In 2002, a study published by the International Labour Organization and the employers’ association UGIR-1903 put trade union density at 44 % [4]. In 2005, the PHARE programme promoting independent social dialogue estimated trade union density at between 40 % and 46 % (between 1.8 and 2.1 million trade union members). In 2008, trade union density was between 32.8 % [5] and 40 % [6]. However, the President of Cartel Alfa declared in 2008 that this was 58 %, which represented around 2.8 million members [7]. In 2012, according to information published on the Ministry of Labour’s website, trade union density was 30 %. It should be noted that, in 2007, this density was much higher in the industrial sector (39 %) than in public services (7.1 %) [8].
  • To form a trade union in a company, the law requires a minimum of 15 members who must belong to the same company. The rule about belonging to the same company was introduced in 2010, with the result that a large proportion of employees cannot form trade unions because most employers are small companies. For example, the proportion of employers with fewer than 10 employees in the industrial, building, trade and market services sectors was respectively 87.2 % in 2003, 89.2 % in 2008 and 99.1 % in 2010.
  • Trade union organisations are legal persons governed by private law. Their legal personality is granted by the courts, with the administrative authorities not being involved in either the formation or the dissolution of trade union organisations. They are independent from employers’ organisations and in political terms, and have their own status, mode of operation and assets.
  • Only representative trade union and employers’ organisations can act as social partners and participate in collective bargaining. The representativeness of trade union organisations has been recognised by the courts for some time based on three criteria: 1. legal status; 2. organisational and asset independence; 3. number of members.
  • In 2011, the representativeness criteria for a trade union at company level were tightened by the new Act: over half of a company’s employees must now belong to the trade union, compared to one-third previously. This means that only one trade union can be representative in one company. In line with the majority rule, once there is a representative trade union within the company, other (non-representative) trade unions are excluded from collective bargaining.
  • To be recognised as representative at sector level, the trade unions within the trade union federation must have a number of members equal to at least 7 % of the total number of employees in the sector. To be recognised as representative at national level, the trade unions affiliated to the trade union confederation must have a number of members equal to at least 5 % of the total number of employees in the national economy, and the trade union confederation must have local structures in over half of the counties of Romania, including Bucharest.
  • According to statistical data published by the National Institute, there has been a steady rise in trade union organisations, with 8 558 trade unions in 2009, 8 598 trade unions in 2010, 8 682 trade unions in 2011, 9 329 trade unions in 2012, 9 915 trade unions in 2013 and 9 372 trade unions in 2014.
  • The representation of employees by works councils does not exist, except in multinational companies subject to Directive 2009/38/EC.
  • The new Act on social dialogue has diluted the employer’s information obligation, because the latter is no longer required to invite union representatives to attend meetings of the Board of Directors, but only to inform them in writing of decisions affecting the professional, economic and social interests of employees. In addition, under the previous Act (No 54/2003 on trade unions), employers had to inform union representatives about the use of funds intended to improve working conditions and safety at work, and about all aspects associated with the sporting or cultural interests of employees. These obligations have been removed by the new Act on social dialogue.
  • The Constitutional Court has ruled that the legal provision prohibiting the dismissal of individuals holding elective offices in trade union organisations for the term of their office, except for disciplinary reasons, contravenes the Constitution because this prohibition of dismissal is virtually absolute, without being strictly linked to union activity [9]. According to the Court, the text of Article 60 of the Labour Code establishes an absolute presumption that any dismissal of elected individuals in trade union organisations is based on their union activity, without allowing these individuals to be dismissed for reasons linked to their professional activity. These individuals benefit from other rules protecting them against acts of interference by the employer and against dismissal, as contained in Article 220 of the Labour Code and in Article 10 of Act No 62/2011 on social dialogue. Under Article 220 of the Labour Code, elected representatives in trade union management structures benefit from legal protection against any act of interference with, or constraint or limitation of, the performance of their duties. They cannot be dismissed for reasons linked to their status or activities as workers’ representatives, their union membership or their participation in union activities, for the entire term of their office. Similar protection is afforded by the Act on social dialogue, which prohibits the amendment of employment contracts or the dismissal of employees due to their union membership or their participation in union activities. Moreover, Article 59 of the Labour Code absolutely prohibits dismissal based on exercise of the right to strike or trade union rights, provided that employees act in accordance with existing laws. The decision of the Constitutional Court has been strongly criticised by the trade unions, which consider that the protection afforded to date by the law is generally declaratory and formal, and not adequate protection complying with Article 1 of ILO Convention No 135/1971 and Article 7 of Directive 2002/14/EC.
  • Employers’ organisations (known in Romania as business organisations) are legal persons governed by private law. Their legal personality is granted by the courts. To be recognised as representative at sector level, the employers within the employers’ federation must have a number of employees equal to at least 10 % of the total number of employees in the sector (except for employees in the public sector). To be recognised as representative at national level, the members of the employers’ organisations affiliated to the employers’ confederation must have a number of employees equal to at least 7 % of the total number of employees in the national economy (except for employees in the public sector), and the employers’ confederation must have local structures in over half of the counties of Romania, including Bucharest.
  • In 2015 there were only five representative employers’ organisations at national level (employers’ confederations), compared to eight in 2014: Consiliul Național al Întreprinderilor Private Mici și Mijlocii din România, Confederaţia Patronală ‘Concordia’, Uniunea Generală a Industriaşilor din România, Patronatul Național Român, Confederaţia Naţională a Patronatului Român [10]. This trend points to a decline in the number of members. There are representative employers’ federations in only 10 out of the 29 sectors in which collective agreements can be concluded. In nine sectors, there are representative trade union federations, but no representative employers’ federations, which means that sectoral collective agreements cannot be concluded.
  • This loss of members can be explained by the fact that, in the absence of an extension decision at sector level by the Minister for Labour, the collective agreement concluded at sector level is only mandatory for employers belonging to the signatory employers’ federations. Therefore, the simplest solution for employers in order to avoid applying the collective agreements concluded at this level is to withdraw from the employers’ federation.

Collective bargaining

  • The Constitution guarantees the right to collective bargaining and the binding nature of collective agreements.
  • Collective bargaining is mandatory in companies with more than 20 employees (in December 2015 there were 41 976 companies of this size). The initiative in terms of collective bargaining rests with the employer.
  • Only representative trade union organisations can participate in collective bargaining. Between 2011 and 2015, in the absence of a representative trade union due to the trade union present in the company not having sufficient members, company-level bargaining could be conducted by elected employee representatives and by the trade union federation with members in the establishment, if it was itself representative in the sector. Collective bargaining by elected employee representatives in this situation has been strongly criticised because, according to Convention No 135 of the International Labour Organization, the existence of elected representatives must not be used to undermine the position of the trade unions or their representatives.
  • In this context, 37 % of employees were represented in 2013 by trade unions (representing 8 % of companies) and 63 % of employees were represented by elected employee representatives (52 % of companies).
  • An Act adopted in January 2016 reintroduced representativeness by membership, i.e. the possibility of the trade union being represented in the collective bargaining process by the representative federation at sector level to which the trade union belongs, with elected employee representatives being excluded in this situation.
  • If there is no trade union or if the trade union federation is not representative, bargaining is conducted by elected workers’ representatives.
  • The collective agreement must be written and filed with the labour inspectorate for company-level agreements or with the Ministry of Labour for sectoral agreements. These texts become applicable when they are filed.
  • The collective agreement must be concluded for a defined term (12 or 24 months) and can be extended once, for another 12 months, by mutual agreement.
  • Only one collective agreement can be concluded at each level: company, group of companies or sector. As a result, there cannot be concurrent collective agreements within the same sector, or separate agreements governing different categories of staff in the same company. The sectors at the level of which collective agreements can be concluded are determined by government decision. A group of companies can be established, on a voluntary basis, only by two or more companies having the same type of principal activity, and not by the trade unions.
  • The possibility of concluding a collective agreement at national level (agreement within the trade) was removed by the new Act on social dialogue.
  • Lower level agreements cannot establish less favourable conditions than the law or those conditions contained in a higher level collective agreement.
  • According to the Ministry of Labour, there are currently 89 representative trade union federations at sector level. However, in 2014 there were only eight sectoral collective agreements (none of which were concluded in 2011, with two concluded in 2012, one in 2013 and one in 2014) out of 29 sectors identified by government decision. In addition, from 2011 to date, no collective agreement has met the legal requirements to become the subject of an extension decision at sector level. Under the Act on social dialogue, a collective agreement can become the subject of an extension decision by the Minister for Labour if the employers belonging to the signatory employers’ federations represent over half of the total number of employees in the sector in question.
  • The number of collective agreements concluded since 2011 has been on the rise (9 477 agreements concluded in 2014, compared to 7 473 concluded in 2011), but these are now mainly at company level.
  • In July 2012, the trade union confederations BNS and Cartel Alfa indicated in a joint statement that the collective bargaining coverage rate had fallen from 98 % in May 2011 to around 36 %.

[1] Jelle Visser, Susan Hayter and Rosina Gammarano, Trends in collective bargaining coverage: stability, erosion or decline?, Issue Brief No 1 - Labour Relations and Collective Bargaining, 29 September 2015, available at: http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/collective-bargaining-labour-relations/publications/WCMS_409422/lang--en/index.htm. Hereinafter Visser 2015.

[2] The ICTWSS Database: Database on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions, Wage Setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts, in 34 countries between 1960 and 2012, compiled by Jelle Visser, at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS, University of Amsterdam, Version 4, April 2013 (see http://www.uva-aias.net/207). Hereinafter: ICTWSS database.

[3] Romania: Industrial relations profile, EIRO, 2012 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/country/romania.pdf

[4] Patronate si Sindicate in Romania, UGIR-1903, 2005.

[5] ICTWSS database.

[6] EIRO 2009.

[7] Romania: Working life country profile, 2015 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/comparative-information/national-contributions/romania/trade-union-strategies-to-recruit-new-groups-of-workers-romania

[8] Eurofound 2007.

[9] Decision No 814 of 24 November 2015.

[10] In the absence of official statistical data, it is very difficult to provide precise information on the employers’ organisations and their members. Seemingly, in October 2015, a sixth employers’ confederation (Confederaţia Patronală din Industrie, Agricultură, Construcţii şi Servicii din România) was recognised as representative at national level.

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