Source AP ©

Romanian railway workers press for higher wages

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: Romanian trains stoped for three hours and thousands of passengers stood and waited on platforms, as railway workers held a protest pressing for higher wages Friday morning.

Union leaders claimed that railway workers had requested the government to increase salaries by 12 percent, but the government offered to increase salaries only by 8 percent.

Not all union railway employees participated in the protest, which the union described as "spontaneous."

Nearly 200 trains were affected nationwide.

Ludovic Orban, Transportation Minister, called the strike illegal, but said he was open to continue negotiations with the unions.

The minimum monthly salary in Romania is 500 lei, or around 200 dollars. Most Romanians are worried as gas prices went up Friday 8.5 percent, triggering higher food costs.

Meanwhile in Hungary, train services were virtually suspended Friday as one of the largest railway workers' union began an open-ended strike in demand of higher wages. The union representing ticket and traffic controllers and inspectors - roughly one-fourth of Hungarian State Railways employees - wants a 10 percent wage increase and a one-off payment of 250,000 forints (1,440 dollars) for its members. Negotiations were set to continue Saturday afternoon.