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Workplace Representation

Employee representation at the workplace is provided either through a “representative union organisation” or through elected employee representatives. Both have similar rights, and both are involved in collective bargaining. However, they are alternatives, and the union has precedence. Employee representatives can only be elected if there is no representative union organisation..

Union organisations are the prime body for employee representation. Only if there is no “representative trade union organisation” at the workplace may the employees – provided there are more than 20 – elect employee representatives (reprezentantii salariatilor).[1]  


However, following the 2011 Social Dialogue Act, a union needs to have a majority of employees (50% plus one) at a workplace as members in order to be “representative”, and in most workplaces they do not reach this threshold.


Employers are, however, under no obligation to ensure that employee representatives are elected.  


There are no official figures on the proportion of employee represented by either unions or employee representatives at workplace level. However, the figures on workplace level collective agreements, which can only be signed by employee representatives if there is no representative union present, give an indication of the split. In 2017, almost seven out of eight (85.5%) agreements at this level were signed by employee representatives rather than unions, and, in the private sector, the proportion signed by employee representatives was even higher at 92.4%.The situation is reversed in the public sector, where three-quarters of agreements (73.4%) were signed by unions.[2]  


Despite this the number of trade union organisations registered with the authorities has steadily increased in recent years, rising from 9,398 in 2012 to 9,944 in 2016. However, it has been suggested that this may be the result of new organisations being created but defunct organisations not being removed from the register.[3]


An indication of the overall extent of employee representation at the workplace is provided by the results of Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey. These show that, in 2013, just over half (52%) of establishments in Romania with at least 10 employees had some form of official employee representation, either a trade union or elected employee representatives. This is well above the EU28 average of 32%.


As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations were much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. The survey shows that 92% of establishments with more than 250 employees had representation, but even among those with between 50 and 249 employees, 90% had either a union or elected employee representatives. In smaller workplaces in Romania, those with between 10 and 49 employees, the survey indicates that just over 44% had employee representation.[4]


Numbers and structure


The numbers and structure of trade union representation at the workplace depend on the rules of the union. However, under the 2011 Social Dialogue Act a union can only be set up by at least 15 individuals in the same company. In the past, it was 15 individuals in the same industry or occupation.


However, if there is no representative union organisation at the workplace and it has more than 20 employees, the employees are entitled to elect representatives at a general meeting. The legislation does not stipulate how many should be elected, stating only that the number should be mutually agreed with the employer, in relation to the number of employees.


Tasks and rights


The representative workplace union and the elected employee representatives both have rights in relation to collective bargaining (see section on collective bargaining) and information and consultation, although if there is a representative union organisation, no employee representatives can be elected.


In most specific areas, there is no difference in the rights enjoyed either by the representative union organisation or by the employee representatives. However, the Labour Code does describe the tasks and rights of the employee representatives separately (Labour Code Article 223). These are to:

  • to ensure that employees’ rights are complied with;
  • to participate in drawing up the company’s internal rules;
  • to promote the interests of employees in relation to pay, working conditions, working time and rest time, employment stability and other professional, economic and social interests;
  • to notify the Labour Inspectorate of any breaches of regulations; and
  • to negotiate collective agreements.


However, the Labour Code also makes clear (Article 224) that it is the employees as a whole, in the general assembly, who decide how the employee representatives should exercise these rights.


In the area of information and consultation, there is a general obligation on the employer to consult with the union or the employee representatives on decisions “likely to affect substantially their rights and interests” (Article 40). There are also a number of specific issues where the representative union organisation or the employee representatives must be consulted. These include:

  • short-time working because of a temporary reduction in activity (Article 52);
  • collective redundancies, where the union or the employee representatives have the right to make alternative proposals, to which the employer must respond (Articles 69 and 71);
  • work schedules (Article 129);   
  • holiday arrangements (Article 148);
  • business transfers, where both the company transferring the business and the one receiving it should consult the union or the employee representatives (Article 174);
  • the development of health and safety measures (Article 178);
  • the annual training plan (Article 195) and
  • internal company rules, which cover a range of topics, from disciplinary procedure to the specific rights and obligations of the employer and employees (Article 241).


Information and consultation rights have been strengthened by legislation implementing the 2002 EU directive on a general framework for information and consultation at national level, which came into force on 1 January 2007(Legea nr. 467/2006). It states that the employer should inform and consult about the recent and probable future development of the business, the current situation and likely changes in employment, and issues likely to lead to substantial changes to work organisation or contractual relations. As with the Labour Code, this legislation makes clear that these rights are exercised in the first instance by the trade union. It is only when it is not present that they pass to the employee representatives


As well as collective bargaining and information and consultation rights, the workplace union is specifically entitled to support union members in dispute with the employer in court.


Election and term of office


The choice and term of office of workplace union representatives depend on the rules of the union.


Employee representatives in workplaces where there are more than 20 employees and where there is no representative union organisation are elected by the employees’ general meeting – provided that at least half of the employees vote. All employees aged over 18 can stand as candidates and senior staff are not excluded, as they are in some countries.


The legislation does not set out any specific election or nomination procedures for employee representatives.  Their period of office is two years.


Protection against dismissal


The elected leaders of the workplace union cannot be dismissed during their period of office for reasons related to their activities as union leaders. They are also legally protected against any coercion or limitation of their functions. However, this protection represents a reduction in the level of protection they enjoyed before a change in the Labour Code, introduced in 2011. Before 2011 union leaders were also protected  for two years following their period of office. They have also lost protection against being dismissed for other reasons, which was the case before 2011.


Elected employee representatives are also only protected during their term of office against dismissal for reasons linked to the fulfilment of their duties as employee representatives.

Time off and other resources


The rights of the elected leaders of the representative union organisation at the workplace to time off now depend on a collective agreement at company level, and this time off is not paid (Social Dialogue Act, Article 35). Before the Act these local representatives had the right to three to five days paid time off.


The time off for elected employee representatives must similarly be fixed in a collective agreement or through direct agreement with the employer (Labour Code Article, 225). There is no general right for paid time off for employee representatives. 


Training rights


Neither the leaders of the representative union organisation at the workplace nor elected employee representatives have any statutory rights to time off or payment for training for their role.

Representation at group level


The legislation does not provide for any form of employee representation above company level.

[1] Labour Code Article 221 and following

[2] Situația salariaților din România: 2018 by Ștefan Guga, Syndex 2019 https://www.syndex.ro/sites/default/files/files/pdf/2019-06/Situa%C8%9Bia%20salaria%C8%9Bilor%20din%20Rom%C3%A2nia%20%282018%29.pdf (Accessed 03.08.2020)

[3] Romania Statistical Yearbook 2017 and Romania 2018: Annual Review of Labour Relations and Social Dialogue, by Victoria Stociu Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2019  http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/bratislava/15363.pdf (Accessed 03.08.2020)

[4] Eurofound (2015), Third European Company Survey – Overview report: Workplace practices – Patterns, performance and well-being, Figures for Table 44

L. Fulton (2021) National Industrial Relations, an update (2019-2021). Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.