Romanian miners call off week-long underground strike after gov’t promises to pay salaries

Dozens of coal miners who had staged a strike down a coal mine in the Jiu Valley in western Romania over unpaid salaries called off a week-long walkout Monday evening that left schools and homes without heat.

Some  70 miners who had barricaded themselves down the Lupeni mine a week ago had threatened to go on hunger strike if they weren’t paid.

Labor Minister Raluca Turcan gave assurances Monday they would be paid after crunch talks with union leaders.

„The company now has three months breathing space to reorganize itself and present a plan to show it can be sustainable in the long term,” Ms Turcan said.

The situation became tense over the weekend when lawmaker Diana Sosoaca traveled to the mine and addressed hundreds of miners, urging them to continue their protest.

Historically, protests by coal miners from the Jiu Valley have turned violent and spread beyond the coal valley. Thousands of miners descended on the capital in 1990 and 1991 where they rampaged, leaving a dozen dead and hundreds injured. They began a march to the capital in 1999, but were stopped by then-Prime Minister Radu Vasile.

Ms Turcan met coal miners trade union leaders on Monday and later  announced that salaries would be paid in three installments starting Thursday. Miners will also receive heating subsidies.

The Hunedoara Energy Complex state-owned coal and power company has 3,000 employees and is currently in insolvency procedures, which means it can’t access funds to pay employees under special circumstances.

 However, Energy Minister Virgil Popescu  also said that the law will be changed so that miners can be paid. He said wages were guaranteed for the next three months.

Both ministers said the energy company needed to find a long-term and sustainable solution.

Romania is currently moving away from coal to green energy with European Union funds.

The Jiu Valley Miners went on strike leaving the Mintia coal-fired power plant without fuel. Homes and schools in the western city of Deva were left without heat after the plant stopped generating heat.

Students resumed online lessons due to the lack of heating in local schools.

“I hope the miners will call of the strike and come back up and no longer think about going on hunger strike,” Ms Turcan said earler.

Premier Florin Citu on Monday said he understood the miners’ current difficulties situation, but added that striking was not the solution.


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