Court backs strike at Renault's Romanian plant

Bucharest- A court has ruled that a three-week-old strike at Renault SA's Romanian plant is legal, bolstering worker demands for higher pay and benefits ahead of a rally planned for Thursday.

Renault is losing an estimated 10 million euros (16 million dollars) a day with the walkout at the plant in Pitesti, which makes Dacia brand budget-priced compact cars aimed mainly at Eastern European markets.

Union negotiators this week rejected an improved pay offer by Dacia management, saying it still fell short of their demands. The union also wants profit sharing for workers and discounts for unionized employees who buy Dacia cars.

Dacia has offered a monthly pay raise of about 394 lei (173 dollars). The union is seeking some 40 per cent more. Romanian autoworkers make about the equivalent of
400 euros (630 dollars) a month.

A Romanian court Wednesday rejected management's claim that the strike was illegal, the Mediafax news agency reported.

The company argued that the union failed to allow enough time for a negotiated settlement, and that the stoppage also broke the law because less than half of the 13,000 workers signed the strike petition.

Striking workers and union supporters were due to take part in the protest rally at Pitesti, which lies in southern Romania.

Dacia made some 230,000 vehicles last year, more than half of which were exported as the brand caught on among budget-conscious buyers in Western Europe, including France, Renault's home market. The plant's production is slated to expand to 350,000 cars this year. (dpa)

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