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Thousands march in Bucharest to demand wage rises

Written by: Staff

BUCHAREST, May 9 (Reuters) Thousands of trade unionists marched through Romania's capital today demanding higher wages and lower prices.

Leaders of CNSLR Fratia, one of the country's biggest union confederations with around 800,000 members, called for talks with the centrist government.

''This protest is only a signal. We want the government to keep its election promises and our main requests are higher wages and lower prices,'' said Gheorghe Isvoranu, president of teachers union Spiru Haret which belongs to CNSLR.

''We want to talk with (Prime Minister Calin) Tariceanu to negotiate our demands. If we can't reach a deal, strikes and other even bigger demonstrations will start all over the country.'' Protesters gathered in front of the parliament building. They waved banners reading ''We want a decent life'' and ''Hunger forces you into the street''.

The ruling coalition defeated the former communists in 2004 elections on a promise to root out graft, cut taxes and improve living standards in the poor Black Sea state of 22 million people before it joins the European Union.

''We do not want to enter the EU as beggars,'' said Costica Stanculea, 54-year-old electrician from Bucharest, who earns 650 lei or some 0 a month, roughly three quarters of Romania's average wage after tax.

The EU's executive is expected to say in a May 16 report whether Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria are ready to join the bloc in 2007 or 2008.

Reuters CH DB2059

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