Romanian finance minister meets unions

Associated Press
Protesting employees of Romania's Finance Ministry shout slogans outside the ministry during the second day of a spontaneous strike over unpaid benefits in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. Romania's finance minister was temporarily trapped in his office when civil servants staged a rowdy demonstration inside the Finance Ministry on Wednesday that sparked a wave of protests across the country against government wage cuts.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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Protesting employees of Romania's Finance Ministry shout slogans outside the ministry during the second …

Romania's finance minister made some concessions to trade union leaders Thursday in an effort to appease workers as civil servants around the country again protested over government wage cuts in the public sector.

The minister, Gheorghe Ialomiteanu, met Prime Minister Emil Boc early Thursday and later held talks with unions to try and resolve the protest which began in the ministry on Wednesday after weeks of anger over the cuts.

Romania was forced to implement austerity measures in exchange for billions in bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund last year, which have sparked frequent demonstrations.

Many civil servants have had their salaries slashed by more than a quarter, because bonuses that once made up a significant proportion of their take-home pay have been cut as part of a slate of austerity measures.

After talks with union leaders, Ialomiteanu tried to calm rowdy protesters who had gathered at the ministry's entrance hall, promising them that they would receive bonuses relating to August and September.

Union leader Vasile Marica said the ministry would set up a committee to evaluate how to protect employees, some of who are now earning just euro150 ($210), a month after salary cuts.

It was unclear whether the concessions would appease protesters enough to end the protests.

At the education ministry, angry teachers staged a protest, demanding that minister Daniel Funeriu resign. "You are a disgrace!" they shouted.

Riot police later escorted Funeriu from the building and to his car, which was surrounded by protesters.

Hundreds gathered outside the Finance ministry earlier, shouting "Thieves!" as Ialomiteanu returned from talks with the prime minister. One held a poster saying: "We are working, and you are stealing!"

Other employees at financial institutes around Romania joined the protest Thursday, refusing to work.

A spontaneous protest began at the ministry Wednesday over wage cuts and some employees remained overnight in the ministry. Ialomiteanu was temporarily trapped in his office by rowdy protesters Wednesday, and later freed by riot police. After meeting the prime minister, he warned employees Thursday that they would face the legal consequences of their protest.

Romania has 1.36 million public sector workers, in a nation of 21 million, which puts a strain on the budget.

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