BUCHAREST - Thousands of workers went on strike on Friday at Romania's car maker Dacia, owned by Renault SA, to press demands for higher pay.
Marin Anghel, vice president of the plant's trade union, told Reuters some 7,000 of the plant's 16,500 workers joined the indefinite walkout to demand a 23 percent wage increase.
One of Romania's biggest enterprises, the plant near the town of Pitesti northwest of Bucharest produces about 70,000 cars a year. Management, which has offered a 14 percent pay rise, called the strike illegal saying only one third of workers actually had joined the stoppage, whereas rules regulating labor conflicts required at least 50 percent do so in order to make it legal.
"We will take steps to bring to justice those responsible for the strike," Dacia spokesman Silviu Sepciu said.
But Anghel declared: "The strike goes on. We will fight to the bitter end."
A company official declined to comment on production, which Anghel said had been halted.
Anghel said news that the management would go ahead with plans to cut some 3,500 jobs this year was likely to add fuel to the dispute.
Dacia remained the market leader in Romania in 2002, when it sold 57,000 units of its locally produced Dacia brand. Renault pledged to launch a new Dacia model in 2004.
The wage dispute erupted as Romania aims to slash annual inflation, the highest in the region, to 14 percent this year from 17.8 percent in 2002.