Romanian teachers strike for better pay, working conditions
Thousands of Romanian teachers took to the streets on Thursday to demand higher pay and better working conditions, as the first such strike in 18 years forced the closure of most schools.
Like many other European countries, Romania has been hit by several protests -- though on a much smaller scale -- amid annual inflation recently hovering around 10 percent.
Romania's teachers in particular have been struggling with a severe cost-of-living crisis as their wages are far lower than the national average.
Some 10,000 people gathered in front of the government building in Bucharest before marching towards the Parliament building chanting "dignity", "thieves" and "shame on you".
"We're here because there's no more patience and tolerance on our part for the countless promises that were not kept across the years," 47-year-old teacher Alina Deliu told AFP.
Several rounds of negotiations between unions and the government have so far failed, with the latest offer being a one-time bonus of 1,000 lei (200 euros) in June and 1,500 lei (300 euros) in October for each teacher.
"I would have preferred for them to offer us nothing rather than those miserable amounts," said 56-year-old Mitica Iosif, a teacher and union leader from the southeastern city of Constanta, who came to Bucharest to take part in the demonstration.
"What we need are motivating salaries, better conditions, new schools with gyms and so on," he added.
Right out of college, fledgling teachers in Romania earn a net monthly wage of around 2,400 lei (480 euros), while the country's average pay per month is almost twice the amount.
"We are being ignored. Wages are very small, especially for beginners like me. They are trying to buy our silence every time with things like vouchers and bonuses," said 29-year-old primary school teacher Mihai Dobre.
Romania's government has said it needs to reform salary legislation for the public sector to allow for higher salaries, with a draft bill due to be presented by mid-July.
However, critics say it will take several months for the bill to be enforced.