Tens of thousands of Romanian public workers have gone on strike, protesting hefty wage cuts meant to reduce the country's budget deficit.


A pensioner holds a copy of the constitution as he shouts during a protest outside the government headquarters in Bucharest, on Monday. ((Radu Sigheti/Reuters))

The workers walked off the job Monday, the same day the ruling Democratic Liberal Party submitted a plan to slash wages by one-fourth to reduce the budget deficit to some 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product.

Employees in the departments of education, health, public administration, customs and jails stopped work, union leaders said. There appeared to be far fewer employees striking than the 700,000 unions predicted, however.

Thousands of medical staff protested shortages of basic medical supplies and low salaries across the country in front of hospitals, and called for the government to resign.

"We lack motivation, we lack medical supplies and we worry for tomorrow," said Elena Banu, a nurse from Bucharest's University Emergency Hospital. She said medical staff were tempted to work in countries such as Italy, Spain and France.

About 150 retirees in Bucharest and 1,000 elsewhere protested the government's decision to cuts pensions by 15 per cent

If the proposed legislation fails, the government could fall. The opposition Social Democratic Party said it will submit a no-confidence motion.

Unions said they will continue protests.

Romania's economy shrank by 7.1 per cent in 2009, forcing it to negotiate a two-year, $21.4-billion Cdn rescue loan by the International Monetary Fund.