Production Plummets as Romanian Car Strike Continues

Only 85 cars came off the line April 3 compared to 61 an hour or an average of 1,300 daily at normal production capacity.

Negotiations remained stalled April 4 between management and unions as a strike for better wages at the Romanian car plant Dacia brought production down to a trickle. The management of Dacia, owned by Renault, refused to budge until the unions called off the strike, said a spokesman for the company at Pitesti in southern Romania.

Only 85 cars came off the line April 3 compared to 61 an hour or an average of 1,300 daily at normal production capacity. Production was gradually resuming after more than a week during which only gearboxes and car assembly kits had been produced due to the strike, the spokesman said. Between March 24, when the stoppage began, and April 1, the plant had turned out 3,565 vehicles including the first of its new Logan pick-up models, the spokesman said. According to management some two-thirds of the 13,000-strong workforce had returned to work, a figure disputed by the union,which said 7,600 or more than half were still out.

The workforce, protesting low pay, is seeking a monthly increase of 550 lei (US$ 231) to bring the average gross monthly wage to 435 euros, compared to 285 euros currently. The management has made an offer to increase the average wage by at least 250 lei. But it has withdrawn an original offer for this increase to cover the period from January to March.

But the union rejected what it called management pressure, saying the Renault workforce in France would provide its Romanian fellow-workers with financial help.

On April 2 a court deferred judgment on the legality of the strike. The company management had filed for an injunction by the court on the grounds that the union had allegedly started the strike before all stages of negotiation had been exhausted, and had also allegedly "inflated" the numbers of strikers.

Dacia is Romania's leading carmaker. It was bought in 1999 by Renault, and achieved record sales last year of more than 230,000 vehicles in Romania and for export, a 17.4% increase compared to 2006.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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