Bulgaria: Unions and employers criticise government social security plans

Unions and employers in Bulgaria are protesting at being sidelined by the government over its social security plans.

Unions and employers have united against the government in Bulgaria to announce their intention to withdraw from the Supervisory Board of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) in protest at government plans to change the Social Security Act without proper consultation.

The six nationally representative social partners have written to the Chair of Bulgaria’s National Assembly, Tsetska Tsacheva, and to the Parliamentary Health Care Commission setting out their concerns. The social partners argue that bills should be submitted to the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) before being approved by the relevant parliamentary committee.

The social partners have also been angered by the government’s move to appoint two more state representatives to the NHIF Supervisory Board, which they argue will give the state the final say in any decision-making, thus neglecting the tripartite principle.

Tensions between the social partners and state representatives were stirred when the NCTC held its first meeting of 2015, on 23 February. At the meeting, government proposals to change the Social Security Act were opposed by unions and employers. Employers said changes to the Social Security Act would distort the principle of social insurance and would transform the Social Insurance Fund into a Social Fund.

The suggestion to separate healthcare into emergency, core and supplementary packages was also rejected by the social partners. Unions claimed the proposal was not detailed enough but, even so, would not meet the needs of patients. Employers, too, wanted more detail, and an explanation of the expected positive effects.

The employer organisations have also gone to the Supreme Administrative court, claiming the law setting the minimum statutory wage for 2015 (in Bulgarian) was unlawful, because the decision had been taken without debate at the NCTC.

Pension reform is also causing difficult discussions between the government and the social partners. The four national representative employers’ organisations in Bulgaria – the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB), the Association for Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (BICA), and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) – have put forward proposals to develop the pension system and its financial stability (in Bulgarian).

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