Protest in Romania over social security hikes

Bucharest (AFP) - Thousands of Romanians protested Wednesday against planned hikes in social security contributions that critics say will wipe out generous salary hikes for public sector workers.

Protest in Romania over social security hikes

Protest in Romania over social security hikes

"The government promised it would hike salaries but in fact they are hitting us with a new tax. All employees are going to see their wages cut by 15-20 percent," Ion Popescu, head of a miners' union, told AFP.

Around 4,000 people took part in the protest outside the main government building in central Bucharest, an AFP photographer estimated.

It followed the announcement of government plans to transfer social security contributions from employers to employees starting in January 2018, for both public and private sector workers.

Unions say the changes will eat up hefty pay increases -- a key pre-election pledge by the left-wing government -- approved by parliament in June for 1.2 million public sector workers.

In the private sector, the government says employers will have to hike gross pay to compensate for the changes but experts and economists say that obliging them to do so would contravene the constitution.

"You can't force the boss to hike wages. He will tell us to go and find another job if we aren't happy," said Constantin, 59, who works in a glass factory in the eastern city of Buzau.