Port workers and port unions
Author: ARDELEANU KONSTANTIN
Until 1882 working conditions in the harbour of Constanţa were not regulated by any laws, so that incidents often occurred. In April 1882 representatives of the local workers required the municipality to regulate their service and to settle the taxes applicable for the carriage of goods within the harbour and outside it. According to the regulation issued in June 1882 porters were grouped into teams or posts of up to ten men, who were allowed to work only after being granted a permit from the municipality . The teams were led by a vataf, who negotiated for the transport of goods with interested merchants. Misunderstandings between merchants, vatafs and porters were referred to the harbour master’s office. Porters had the exclusive right to carry the colonial goods, manufactures, gallantry etc. stored in magazines. When goods were deposited on the quays, merchants could also carry them with carriages. Transport tariffs were calculated by weight and according to four sections of distance into which the city was divided. The regulation was still in use in early 20th century, although it was no longer appropriate with the new development of the city .
Working conditions were extremely difficult, and most of the regulations meant to favour labourers (such as the 1897 law of Sunday repose) were not applied in the harbour . Protests and strikes were thus often, starting as early as 1879–1880. In 1889 carters refused to recognise the vataf imposed by the municipality and chose another leader, who soon enough was as abusive as his predecessor. In 1890 porters and carters opposed once more their vatafs, and a new conflict was recorded in 1891 .
A strike of stevedores took place in 1884 and another one in April 1896. The main demand was the increase and regular payment of salaries. A new strike started in 1901 for similar reasons , and in 1909 workers from the “Steaua Română” Plant went on strike .
By late 19th century workers also started to organise themselves into professional societies. In 1884 there was created an association of the stevedores, and in 1902 the “Munca” International Society was established. In 1905 the “Proletariatul” Socialist Circle was founded, later called “Working Romania”. There were five trade unions at Constanţa before 1906, and in 1907 the Society of Civilian Seamen, with about 200 members, was constituted for supporting its members and their families .
Socialist circles were also extremely influential, especially in trying to defend the political rights of the people of Dobrudja, lacking the right to elect representatives in the Romanian Parliament. An important meeting took place in February 1907, supported by influential socialist intellectuals. In 1915 the local socialist club numbered 35 members .
Din tezaurul documentar dobrogean, edited by Marin Stanciu (Bucharest: Direcţia Generală a Arhivelor Statului din RSR, 1988), 87–90; Arhivele Naționale. Serviciul Județean Constanța, Constanța – mărturii documentare, vol. I, Regulamente ale administrației locale (1879–1949), edited by Virgil Coman & Constantin Cheramidoglu (Constanța: Ex Ponto, 2012), 15.
 G. Christodorescu, Portul Constanţa. Mişcare comercială şi maritimă în anul 1903 (Constanţa: Tipografia Ovidiu, 1905), 233–237.
 Valentin Ciorbea, Portul Constanţa de la antichitate la mileniul III (Constanţa: Europolis, 1994), 118–119.
Din tezaurul, 148–149.
 Stoica Lascu, “Crearea şi activitatea organizaţiilor judeţene Constanţa ale partidelor politice (1908–1916)”, in vol. Comunicări de istorie a Dobrogei (Constanţa: Muzeul de Istorie Naţională şi Arheologie, 1980), vol. I, 194.
Din tezaurul, 342–343.
 Ciorbea, Portul, 120–121.
 Adrian Rădulescu, Stoica Lascu, Puiu Haşotti, Ghid de oraş. Constanţa (Bucharest: Sport Turism, 1985), 33–34. 92–93.
Serviciul Judeţean Constanţa al Arhivelor Naţionale (The National Archives, Constanţa Branch), Primăria municipiului Constanţa (The Municipality of Constanţa), files starting with 1878.
Arhivele Naționale. Serviciul Județean Constanța, Constanța – mărturii documentare. Regulamente ale administrației locale (1879–1949) [Constanţa – Documentary Evidences. Regulations of the Local Administration], edited by Virgil Coman and Constantin Cheramidoglu) (Constanța: Ex Ponto, 2012), vol. I.
Christodorescu, C., Portul Constanţa. Mişcare comercială şi maritimă în anul 1903 [The Port of Constanţa. Its Commercial and Maritime Movement in 1903] (Constanţa: Tipografia Ovidiu, 1905).
Ciorbea, Valentin, Portul Constanţa de la antichitate la mileniul III [Constanţa Harbour from the Antiquity to the Third Millennium] (Constanţa: Europolis, 1994).
Din tezaurul documentar dobrogean, edited by Marin Stanciu [Tresure of Documents on Dobrudja], edited by Marin Stanciu (Bucharest: Direcţia Generală a Arhivelor Statului din RSR, 1988).
Lascu, Stoica, “Crearea şi activitatea organizaţiilor judeţene Constanţa ale partidelor politice (1908–1916)” [The Creation and Activity of the Local Organisations of the Political Parties (1908–1916)], in vol. Comunicări de istorie a Dobrogei [Papers on the History of Dobrudja] (Constanţa: Muzeul de Istorie Naţională şi Arheologie, 1980), vol. I, 159–205.
Rădulescu, Adrian, Lascu, Stoica, Haşotti, Puiu, Ghid de oraş. Constanţa [City Guidebook. Constanţa] (Bucharest: Sport Turism, 1985).