The growing transport workers strike movement is primarily associated with the current political processes in Moldova, and does not pay attention to the deepening crisis in the field of road and rail transport
Last weekend passed under the sign of waiting for the Moldovan Constitutional Court’s decision as to who of the candidates for the country’s prime minister: Natalia Gavrilitsa or Mariana Durlesteanu should present the program and the government composition to the parliament. In addition, some intrigue added the United States and the European Union ambassadors visits to the third, officially unnamed participant in the race for the post of prime minister – Andrei Nastase. Both he and his party are viewed as by the current and as by the ex-president of Moldova as a “resource base”, it is premature to completely excluding the former protests’ leader out of republic’s political future.
While everyone is following the “big politics”, the stoppage of private road carriers’ work, which was being prepared for a week, and the strike of Moldovan Railways (CFM)’s employees, which had already begun, remained relatively unnoticed. They, of course, have already managed to connect directly with the political events taking place in the country, especially since the protest performance of transport companies is scheduled for February 23rd, exactly on the date when the Constitutional Court announced its verdict. Even if there is some truth in such assessments, it is difficult to deny that over the past decades, this sector of the republic has accumulated significant problems that border with the entire transport system of Moldova “necrosis”, whilst so far there are no attempts made to solve them (or at least a due attention towards from the central authorities).
Thus, the Association of Employers of Road Carriers (APOTA) announced in advance about transport operations termination as early as February 18. The stated problems: the need to reduce the number of passengers by 50%, the requirement of compensation for forced inactivity during the pandemic and the need to vaccinate drivers – this is just the tip of the iceberg, since there are other pressing issues, such as fuel’s prices regular increase. Over the past two months, the price tags for gasoline and diesel in Moldova have quadrupled, cumulatively by almost 20% and the fuel price formation scheme has not yet been fully clarified.
A critical situation, which has a completely financial background as well is developing around the CFM State Enterprise. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Railway Company provided tangible logistic support for goods and passengers transportation as within the country as when carrying out the transit potential of the republic. Today, even without taking into account the actual division of the railway network into Moldovan and Transdniestrian segments, this mode of transport has seriously degraded. This is due to obsolete and outdated tracks, failing mobile tracks. Resource management of the once lucrative sector of Moldova’s transport and logistics network is now reduced to selling its remains for scrap. According to various sources, in recent years, CFM has sold more than 70 thousand tons of ferrous metals, even larger volumes of metal products, worth about $ 10 million, were disassembled and prepared for sale as scrap.
The situation was aggravated when the borders got closed in 2020 due to coronavirus, so, since March last year, the Republic of Moldova actually stopped international traffic. The number of local, domestic, routes was reduced to three. And this is far from the limit – it was reported that due to a lack of funds for the renewal of rolling stock and a decrease in demand, there’s being considered the option to completely suspend internal passenger traffic in the country. In addition, there take place systemic delays in wages to employees working within enterprises of concern and that only added “fuel” for the growth of strikes. There are yet proposals to pay off debts to employees by means of selling the railway company assets but it is not hard to guess that such a step will not solve the problem in the long term.
The decision of the special commission of the Parliament of Moldova to send the CFM 2010-2020 financial report and the lists of real and movable assets to the national anti-corruption center, to the intelligence and security service, to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and to Prosecutor General of Moldova ‘s Office for a 60-day audit only does emphasize that the rail way has become a kind of “suitcase without a handle” – something that everyone nedss but no one knows (and hardly wants to figure out) how to cope with all the accumulated problems.
The growing protests are due to the very real plight of both the transport industry in general and its workers, which has even more been aggravated by large losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The growing set of problems, which has already gained critical mass, contributes to the fact that Moldova is losing its transit potential at an accelerated pace. In the context of regional turbulence, the business of neighboring Ukraine and Romania is seeking for stable goods and passengers’ delivery routes but are forced to increasingly resort to sea and air ways of traffic that do not depend on their neighbor’s infrastructure problems.
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