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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Romanians Stone Ministry

BUCHAREST -- Romanian workers angry about soaring prices and delays in wage payments have stoned the country's Transport Ministry and smashed windows during protests by several thousand railway repairmen.

At the same time last week, President Ion Iliescu got a chilly welcome from workers at an electrical plant in southern Romania, where 10,000 workers are afraid of losing their jobs through the possible bankruptcy of their loss-making industrial giant.

Transport Minister Paul Teodoru stepped into the fray in Bucharest to defuse a tense stand-off between 3,000 railway repairmen and riot police.

"I asked the national bank to help us solve this crisis situation and make the arrangements for the cash transfer. They promised their full support, so the matter will be solved today," Teodoru told trade union leaders on Friday of the Grivita railway maintenance company, gathered in his office at the ministry.

Outside, the crowd stoned the ministry's building and smashed windows. Hundreds of stones and large pieces of broken glass carpeted the street.

Police said Monday they had ordered the organizers of the protest to pay fines, and would prosecute those responsible for the violence. They said 15 police officers were injured.

In Craiova, 200 kilometers west of Bucharest, a crowd of workers Friday disrupted a tour of Iliescu at the Electroputere, a state industrial giant which makes locomotive engines and electrical equipment.

"An important number of (Electroputere) workers met the president ... with banners reading 'Where is the company going to -- bankruptcy?'" the state news agency Rompres said.

The protests, a prelude to several major strikes planned next week, were sparked by the effects of a severe financial blockage in Romania's economy caused by 4,200 billion lei ($2.8 billion) of unpaid debts between enterprises.

Workers from the Grivita railway maintenance company did not get their wages this week because the state railways had not paid Grivita 2.4 billion lei for repair jobs done in the past two months, union leaders said.

Electroputere union leaders handed over a protest letter complaining that more than 10,000 workers were in a desperate plight at the plant, which faced possible bankruptcy, Rompres said.

Inflation hit almost 300 percent last year, while average monthly wages of less than $50 could buy less and less goods.