Links Sitemap Business Linker Sitemap

Who owns a state-owned company anyway?

On the 26th of March 2021, a brisk Friday morning, the Bucharest underground was blocked by two hundred or so protesters, taking hostage almost one million people struggling to get to work.
Metrorex union leader Ion Radoi reacted with his guts rather than his brain to Transport Minister Catalin Drula’s decision to demolish the kiosks rented out by the Union, and asked his henchmen to bring the city to a standstill. It is a scene reminiscent of that from the epic 1985 movie Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome, when Tina Turner, playing the ruthless Aunty Entity, the founder and ruler of Bartertown, is commanded to acknow­led­ge that the one who actually owns the city is a dwarf from the underground world called Master and his giant bodyguard Blaster. In an act of defiance, the Master of the methane refinery that runs on pig feces, literally turns off the power button and demands Aunty Entity to publicly acknowledge that "Master Blaster rules the town".

This clash of wills between "Jimmy" Ion "Hoffa" Radoi and Catalin Drula brought forth once again the debate over the role of the Romanian trade unionism in general and the trade union leaders in particular, and how they think that the (state) companies exist with the sole purpose to serve their interests.
Ion Radoi is a true survivor from the 90s, when the Romanian industry was still in the hands of “the people”. While other almighties of the trade unions faded away into public irrelevance once their industries were privatized, Ion Radoi enjoyed the enviable situation of being the Master Blaster of the Bucharest Underground, the one who controlled the people who ensured the running of the Bucharest metro. After two spells in the Parliament as a “social-democrat” deputy and senator respectively, he returned to what he knew best: trade and unioning.

Radoi’s power was so great that for the past three years nobody in the company has dared to check if the disputed concession contract is still in force and nobody within the management has questioned whether it should/would/might be extended in case it expired. Let alone questioning the wisdom of signing such a contract in the first place, whether it was a good idea and why should it be renewed. Was the contract in the benefit of the company and the Romanian people (who actually own the damn place through the Ministry of Transportation) or was it in the benefit of a rather small group of people that milked the company shamelessly and with impunity?
Which brings us to the mother of all questions: who owns a state company: the state, in the name of all the people in the country or the trade union in the name of the people in the said company? What is the purpose of a state-owned company: to be profitable for all the people or to provide jobs and wealth for the people within the said company?
According to Ion Radoi’s philosophy, the underground is there for the benefit of the people working there and it doesn’t really matter if the company runs at a loss or not. Is not his problem. Which, actually, is not. The costs are covered through subsidies: 40% of the Metrorex’s costs are covered by all the Romanian people, who, incidentally, pay 40% of Radoi’s men’s salaries. The operational costs should be the manage­ment’s problem, but the manage­ment is political, and what politicians hate the most are strikes. So, the political management is not interested in counting and keeping under control the operational costs of the business as such, but maximizing the political benefits and reducing unpopularity risks. Keeping the union happy seems to be the main objective of the management. Running the Bucharest underground is neither a state business nor a public service: it is just a way in which the entire nation contributes to the wellbeing of a few. And this is how many trade union leaders and state-owned company managers have joined a crooked brotherhood that has drained off the resources and left the state’s coffers empty, all in the name of social peace and better salaries for the workers.  

So what was different this time around with "Jimmy" Ion "Hoffa" Radoi? First of all, his reaction was illegitimate, visceral and ill-timed. So, he didn’t get any public sympathy whatsoever. According to a poll, two thirds of Bucharest residents considered the protest as “illegitimate”. Everyone knew that he didn’t receive any political support either. This time, it was plain for everyone to see that the battle was not about the trains, public safety, not even about the workers’ salaries. It was about the union’s perks and show of power.
In the opposing corner, there was a minis­ter that knew the real numbers and wasn’t ready to negotiate while the opposition was trying to twist his arm, and – for a change – he wasn’t pressed by the party to solve the matter quickly and quietly. On the contrary. Moreover, Catalin Drula was a tough nut to crack, who, in less than six months, had become “Mr. Motorway.” The Transportation Minister has managed to unblock many motorway and express road projects that have stayed idle for years. That was a game that Ion Radoi didn’t know how to play. 
Last time Radoi called a strike was in November 2009, during another global epidemic incident and a global economic meltdown. It was just one month before the presidential elections. His party's candidate, Mircea Geoana, lost. See what I mean?

This is also available in our print edition of Business Arena.

S-ar putea să îți placă:

Fii tu primul care comenteaza