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Romanian health workers protest over cuts to income

© AFP | The protesters included nurses, physiotherapists and biochemists who gathered in front of the Romanian government's headquarters in the central Victory Square

BUCHAREST (AFP) - 

Thousands of Romanian healthcare workers from across the country protested in the capital Bucharest Thursday against recent cuts to their income.

The protesters included nurses, physiotherapists and biochemists who gathered in front of the government's headquarters in the central Victory Square.

The protesters carried placards demanding "justice in health" and at one point symbolically turned their backs on the government.

The cuts have come about because of changes in how bonuses are awarded in the healthcare sector as well as a controversial law passed last year which meant that social security contributions have to be covered entirely by employees, instead of being shared with employers as previously.

"It's a miserable law, I'm not asking for a pay rise but I want them not to cut it at least," Sanda, 47, told AFP.

She says the changes have deprived her of 250 lei (54 euros; $65) a month, money that she needs for her children to buy lunch at school.

"A nursing assistant who works through weekends and public holidays earns around 2,000 lei now", union spokesman Aurel Cretu told AFP, adding that this represented a cut in income of around 15 percent.

Unions say some staff have suffered cuts of up to 255 euros a month, although doctors and some nurses have seen pay rises.

Thursday's demonstration follows smaller protests in recent weeks in front of hospitals, and unions say they are considering holding a general strike on 11 May.

Romania's health system suffers from dilapidated facilities and a chronic lack of both investment and medical specialists, many of whom have left in search of higher wages in other countries since Romania joined the EU in 2007.

© 2018 AFP