"In many cases, mass layoffs proved to be exactly what surgeons have warned for centuries: amputation before diagnose. The result is always a victim", Peter Drucker.
This report attempts to give a picture of the two decades of the restructuring process brought about by the transition to a market economy, triggered, in its turn, by the changes in the political, economic and social systems of Romania.
During the first decade, 1990-1999, in Romania, the transition to a market economy induced a certain type of economic reform and restructuring schemes, mainly by privatisation and a thorough change of the economic and employment structures.
It has been a particularly complex, complicated, and difficult process that made it hard for its various components – economic, institutional, legal, social, political, cultural and educational, psychological, etc. – to harmonise and synchronise.
In the first decade, very often, the economic side of the process, but also the technical and technological ones, went ahead of the institutional and legal components, of the political and socio-cultural transformations, and translated into a dramatic plunge of the gross domestic product (GDP), the radical change of the structure of the gross added value (GAV) and employment, all paralleled by rampant and continuous inflation rates, and high unemployment.
Although the economic reforms were incepted since the first years of the transition period, through unemployment legislation and the emergence of the new trade unions, these two elements were not capable to anticipate the amplitude of the social phenomena that were yet to be generated by privatisation and economic restructuring.
This is the reason why the standards applicable to collective dismissals, and the creation of sectoral and local development strategies designed as instruments to forecast and help manage restructuring were introduced on the stakeholders’ agenda mostly in the end of the first decade.
Until that moment the passive component of the labour market policies, consisting in the financial support of unemployed was prevalent. Restructuring was collectively perceived as something negative, being associated solely with the loss of job and of the source of income.
The concept of “collective dismissals” was defined, for the first time after 1990, in the legislation passed in 1997 for the workers of state-owned companies, whose individual employment contracts had to be terminated due to the loss-incurring activities, the arrears accumulated, and the negative cash flows affecting companies and public services corporations then in public ownership.
The laws for establishing trade unions and employer organisations and for the social dialogue institution (Economic and Social Council, collective agreement law and conflict of interest law) were promoted.
The National Agency for Employment (Agenţia Naţională pentru Ocuparea Forţei de Muncă, ANOFM) was set up by law in 1998 to act as the public employment authority, and is in charge of implementing the policies and strategies for the employment of labour, and the vocational training and social protection of job seekers.
After 1999, this process overlapped the preparations for the accession to the European Union (2000-2007), which, in addition to the effort of transposing the acquis communautaire, required transformations and adaptations of the administrative capacity towards the anticipating and management, with consequences for the effective functionality of the labour market as well.
In the second decade, after 2000, when the economy started growing, sometimes spectacularly, the Romanian society began to gradually rid itself of a mode of thinking and acting specific for times of crisis, under the impact of an afflux of announcements of the private companies and public sector related to the opening new units and new jobs creation.
New legislation was promoted to provide the basis for social protection to the unemployed, and for employment measures (Law no. 76/2002), but also the new Labour Code (Law no. 53/2003).
The new legal and institutional framework provide the necessary support for public employment service in order to anticipate and managing restructuring with the involvement of the social partners.
The anticipatory approach was concretised, starting with 2002, also in national action plans and national strategies for employment.
As a specific of the second decade, the steps taken in anticipation of restructuring mainly converge towards preventing unemployment, ensure the improvement and diversification of the employees’ vocational skills, and provide pre-redundancy counselling services. The effects of restructuring are managed by way of indemnifying individuals for the loss of their jobs, and by putting in place incentives for employment.
As of the end of 2008, also due to the global economic crisis, the conclusion was reached that Romanians consume more than they produce, and that, for macroeconomic balance purposes, new collective dismissals would be required, particularly for those paid from public founds.
Similarly, it is a fact that the growth of the number of retirees, as an effect of the restructuring and redundancy schemes after 1995, has gradually become unsustainable for the public social security system.
The developments of the past 20 years prove that anticipating the course of restructuring and its management in Romania have featured certain peculiarities and additional difficulties by comparison to other EU Member States.