Living and working in Bulgaria

18 October 2017

  •   Population: 0.7 million (2017)
  •   Real GDP growth: 3.9% (2016)
  •   Unemployment rate: 7.6% (2016)

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for Bulgaria

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Bulgaria: 92% of people consider themselves doing useful work

Survey results

Satisfaction with quality of life
Data source: 2012 EQLS survey

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

News and quarterly country updates

Eurofound contacts in Bulgaria

Correspondents in Bulgaria

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the countries working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium IR Share / Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, Bulgaria Academy of Sciences (ISSK)

Eurofound governing board members from Bulgaria

Eurofound's Governing Board represents the social partners and national governments of all Member States, as well as the European Commission. Read more

Teodora Todorova Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

Dimiter Brankov Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA)

Ivan Kokalov Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Working life in Bulgaria

About

  • Author: Ekaterina Markova
  • Institution: ISSK, IR Share

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Bulgaria. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Bulgaria

 

2011

2016

% (point) change
2011–2016

Bulgaria

EU28

Bulgaria

EU28

Bulgaria

EU28

GDP per capita

5300

25800

6000*

26900

13.2%

4.3%

Unemployment rate – total

11.3

9.7

7.6

8.5

-3.7

-1.2

Unemployment rate – women

10.1

9.8

7.0

8.7

-3.1

-1.1

Unemployment rate – men

12.3

9.6

8.1

8.4

-4.2

-1.2

Unemployment rate – youth

25

21.7

17.2

18.7

-7.8

-3.0

Employment rate – total

65.9

71.1

68.7

73.0

2.8

1.9

Employment rate – women

61.9

64.8

64.6

67.4

2.7

2.6

Employment rate – men

69.9

77.5

72.7

78.6

2.8

1.1

Employment rate – youth

29.5

42.5

23.9

41.6

-5.6

-0.9

*provisional data
Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2011-2016 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

From 2011 to 2016, Bulgaria experienced robust GDP growth of 13.2%, well above the EU average of 4.3%. In the same period unemployment figures decreased and remained below the EU average for all categories of workers. Employment rates also increased in the five years considered, except for young people, with a decrease of 5.6% in 2016 for this category of workers, remaining well below the EU average of 41.6% in 2016. 

More information on:

Legal context

The Labour Code (Кодекс на труда) regulates labour relations between employee and employer, industrial relations, collective bargaining, and control of labour regulations compliance.

In 2014, the changes in the Labour Code defined the administrative regulation of particular type of contract of apprenticeships supporting the transition from education and training to employment.

The employee’s representation and collective bargaining, and the criteria for national representation of social partners are regulated in the Labour Code. The Law for settlement of collective labour disputes deals with the adjustment of such disputes between employed and employers on issues of labour and social insurance relations and standard of living. The current conditions for defining the representation of organisations for employers and employees are settled in an Ordinance.

Overall control over labour legislation compliance in all economic sectors is provided by the General Labour Inspectorate, part of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Industrial relations context

After the democratic changes at the beginning of 1990s, industrial relations in Bulgaria became decentralised. The National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) was established in 1993, and includes members of all representative trade unions and employers’ organisations, as well as the representatives of the government.

At national level, social dialogue is executed by NCTC in the Council of Ministers. At sectoral level, social dialogue is maintained by sectoral committees for tripartite cooperation. At municipal level there are Councils for social cooperation. The representatives of the local authorities also participate in the agreement process, related to the public sector: education, healthcare, culture, administration. At company level the trade unions and employer organisations participate together with employers in collective bargaining.

Since 2011, social dialogue and industrial relations in Bulgaria have been functioning in a complex political and economic climate, trying to avoid the government’s disregard of tripartism in taking decisions of national importance. In early 2012 the social partners developed common proposals to the government related to the stabilisation of the pension system and to improving tripartite and bipartite dialogue. In the end of 2014, the tension between employers, trade unions and public administration about the functioning of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation was related to the pension reform and changes in labour-related legislation. The employer organisations addressed the Supreme Administrative court, claiming the Ordinance for the minimum statutory wage for 2015 was unlawful because the decision had been taken without mandatory debate in the NCTC. With a similar argument - ‘jumping’ over the NCTC, the trade union confederations CITUB and Podkrepa contested the higher prices of heating and electricity, cancelled by the court.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Bulgaria.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The state plays a general role of regulating, controlling and facilitating industrial relations through its institutions. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is the main national authority dealing with labour regulations and working conditions. It carries out consultations and cooperation with representative organisations of workers and employers at the national level in the development and implementation of policies in the labour market, the protection of the national labour market and training the workforce.

There are no specialised labour courts in Bulgaria. All individual labour conflicts are dealt with by the general courts. In 2016, with a change at the Labour Court (art.45 ‘Representation in court’) the trade unions and their branches are entitled, by the request of employees, to represent them in court. As a mediation and arbitration body, the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitrage (NICA) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy functions on a tripartite basis. The main aim of NICA is to facilitate the settlement of collective labour disputes through mediation and arbitration as an alternative, extrajudicial means of dispute settlement for collective labour conflicts. The executive Agency ‘ General Labour Inspectorate’ monitors the compliance of the labour legislation on quality of work, as well as Health and Safety at work.

The National Working Conditions Fund is created under the Law for Health and Safety Working conditions, providing finance for projects for improvement of working conditions with national, branch and sectoral importance.

Representativeness

The general rules of representativeness described in the Labour Code (Articles 34–35) were changed in 2012. (These changes were strongly questioned by institutions, employer organisations and trade unions. The President vetoed the initial proposal. Some of the suggested changes were rejected because of a ruling from the Constitutional Court.) In 2016, the Labour Code requirements for social partners’ representativeness have been reduced, making the eligibility easier to achieve.

The trade unions should prove the following in order to be accepted as nationally representative (art.34, Labour Code, in force from 29.01.2016):

  • At least 50 000 members (75,000 in 2012);
  • Its members to be at least 50 organisations with not less than five members in each economic activity defined by NACE- second digit codes and approved by the National Statistical Institute (NSI).
  • Territorial representation – to have local branches in more than a quarter of municipalities in the country.
  • To have a national governing body.
  • Length of experience – to have the status of a legal entity, obtained by registration as a non-profit association at least three years before the census.

The employer organisations need to prove the following (art. 35, Labour code):

  • At least 1,500 member companies with no less than 50,000 employees in total, or 100 000 employees within all members of the employer organisation, working on labour contract.
  • They represent employers in more than a quarter of the NACE code-defined economic activities with no less than 5% of employees in each economic activity, or a minimum of 10 employers in each activity.
  • Its members - employer organisations to represent more than a quarter of activities defined by NACE second digit code, with no less than 5% of employees in each economic activity, or a minimum of 10 members in each activity;
  • Territorial representation – they represent employers in more than a quarter of Bulgaria’s municipalities.
  • Length of experience – they have the status of a legal entity, obtained by registration as a non-profit association at least three years before the census.

After the Census of the criterion for representativeness in 2012, the Ministry Council recognised as representative two trade union confederations: Confederation of independent trade unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), Confederation of labour Podkrepa, and four employers’ organisations: Confederation of employers and industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB), Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), and Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association. The Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE) and the Union of Private Bulgarian Entrepreneurs, ‘Vazrazhdane’ (UPBE) were not approved as representative in 2012. UPBE joined BICA.

A decision by the Council of Ministers from 10 August 2016, based on a census on the representativeness of the social partners in Bulgaria, formally recognised five nationally representative employer organisations and two trade unions: Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (BICA); Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA); Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB); Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI); Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE); Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB); Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa).

More information on the representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

The Labour Code (Articles 4 and 5) says that employees/employers have the right, without prior authorisation, to freely form trade unions /organisations, voluntarily join or leave them, taking into account their statutes only. No exclusion of employees or sectors is regulated in the Labour Code. Civil servants can also form and be members of trade unions (Law for Civil Servants). Freedom of association is also defined in the Constitution Act (Article 49).

Some limitations are settled by other legislative documents, such as the Law for Ministry of Interior. The employees of the system ‘Security’ have the right to join trade unions for the Ministry of Interior only (none of the nationally representative social partners).

The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) is the largest trade union in Bulgaria. CITUB was established in 1990, on the basis of the old unique trade union during the communist period (Balgarski Profesionalni Sauzi - BPS). The Confederation of Labour Podkrepa was formed on 8 February 1989 by a small group of dissidents. During the first years of its existence (up to 1991), CL Podkrepa combined trade union and political activities. However, CL Podkrepa rapidly became the second largest trade union confederation in Bulgaria covering all economic sectors and regions. By 2003, however, union membership was steadily decreasing. Union density had also fallen, but relatively less than the membership rate between 2008 and 2013. Since 2004 the main reasons for these decreases have been the privatisation of state companies, and the fact that more than 90% of companies are SMEs which unions face challenges organising within. New forms of employment, such as self-employment, and workers in the grey economy, have also played a role.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)

19.8

21.2 NRS WCI

No data

21.9

No data

No data

No data

Fulton (2013)

Visser (2014)

Trade union membership in 1000s

464.000

No data

361091 total, official census data

275,762 CITUB

88,329 Podkrepa

No data

No data

No data

Fulton (2013)

Visser (2014)

Main trade union confederations and federations

The most important trade union confederations in Bulgaria, nationally representative, are the Confederation of Independent Trade unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members 2012

Involved in collective bargaining?

Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria/Конфедерация на независимите синдикати в България

CITUB

275,762

Yes

Confederation of Labour Podkrepa/Конфедерация на труда „Подкрепа”

CL Podkrepa

88,329

Yes

The most important developments are related to the process of EU integration and the world economic and financial crisis, as well as some developments in the employment, such as the need to formalise employment relations for teleworkers, home-based workers in temporary agency work, and representation of Bulgarian workers abroad. The general trend in 2007–2010 is a reduction in the number of union members, particularly those belonging to the nationally representative trade union confederations. At the same time the union density has not decreased, as the overall level of employment also decreased by more than 15% in 2008–2012, as well as the shrinkage in some sectors – manufacturing, services and public administration.

In order to address this, trade unions have focused on unionisation campaigns directed at SMEs or ‘new’ employment. The last three years have been characterised by two parliamentary elections and political instability. The economic crisis has reinforced the trade unions’ importance. In the beginning of 2010, after continuous discussions, the social partners in Bulgaria agreed upon 60 anti-crisis measures. The measures concerning employment were agreed mainly because of the active participation of the trade unions (Kirov, 2011). The government accepted a mechanism for raising the minimum wage; employment promotion schemes to be funded by the Operational Program ‘Human Resources Development’: extension of the sectoral CLAs to all enterprises in their respective sector, and other measures. Many of these measures have been suggested, developed and defended by the trade unions.

In 2015–2016, CITUB and CL Podkrepa were very active in defending employers’ rights, proposing legislative changes and executing projects and campaigns. For its forthcoming 8th Congress in May 2017, CITUB defines as top priority the easy access of every citizen to education, training, qualification, retraining, information, careers guidance, recognition of knowledge, skills and competencies acquired during working life and informally through each life stage. CITUB emphasises the importance of appropriate mechanisms to ensure and improve the quality and effectiveness of all educational measures.

Both national representative trade unions are running information campaigns targeting young people, offering them trade union opportunities in the case of starting their first job. CITUB organised meeting with graduates to present information on being out of the labour market and to whom they can turn for a consultation and trade union protection. CL Podkrepa started in February 2016 training activities for the unemployed within the project ‘Horizons’, part of the National Action Plan for Employment for 2016. The planned total number of persons to be trained is 1,150 unemployed persons and 460 trained unemployed persons within the project will be employed until the end of 2016. The target group of the project includes the most vulnerable unemployed: young people, the long-term unemployed, Roma people including those over 50 years of age with low qualification and those with disabilities, as well as discouraged unemployed out of the labour market. The first training sessions began on February 2016, and ended in July 2016.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

All employers have the right to join employer organisations (Labour Code, Article 5). One company can be a member of more than one employer organisation. This multiple membership makes it difficult to evaluate the real density and membership rate. According to the last publicly available census data in 2012, employer organisations cover approximately 14% of the companies in Bulgaria. New data is not available because the legal minimum requirement do not engage the social partners to present officially their membership.

After the legislative change on representativeness in 2012, the representative employer organisations decreased from six to four. In 2016, with the new change of the legal requirements, five employer organisations are considered as nationally representative.

There are five nationally representative employers’ organisations in Bulgaria in 2016: the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG), the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), and the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE). The employer organisations publicly protested against the 2012 criteria (BIA, BCCI), calling them ‘discriminative’, and contradictory to the main principle of the international legislation. As a result of the 2012 census, the Council of Ministers disapproved the representativeness of the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE) and the Union of Private Bulgarian Entrepreneurs, ‘Vazrazhdane’ (UPBE). The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked the President of the Republic to veto the legislative changes. BCCI turned to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria and after its supportive decision, BCCI obtained an approval for national representation in 2012. In late January 2016, the new census of the membership of employer representatives and trade unions involved in NCTC was organised. Through amendments of the Labour Code, the Parliament adopted lower criteria (50,000 members as it was between 1992–2012 instead of 75,000 members) for the national representativeness of the social partners, and in August 2016 five representative employer organisations received a mandate to operate until 2020.

The employer organisations have been very active in public discussions about labour legislation changes – for instance, on the raising of the minimum wage in 2015–2016, pension reform and social security issues – and often oppose the trade unions.

Up to 2000, the number of employer organisations increased. However, since 2012 there have been just four nationally representative employer organisations, compared to six before the official census.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

14%

No data available

No data available

No data available

Visser (2014), based on 2012 Census.

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

29% (EOM)

No data available

No data available

No data available

ECS 2013

*Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

According to the last census in 2016, the recent change in the legislative requirements (lowering the criteria for representation – returning the level of 50,000 members as it was in 1992–2012 instead of 75,000 members, and the decision of the Council of Ministers, there are five nationally representative employer organisations: the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE).

The employer organisation with the largest number of employees with labour contracts and the largest number of employer members is BCCI, according to the last official data from 2012. BICA covers the largest number of economic sectors (46). BIA has the most local structures. Only CEIBG is not member of global and European social dialogue employers’ structures. The sectoral employers’ federations are part of collective bargaining through the branch councils for cooperation. However, not all the branches and economic activities having collective agreements signed. UPEE is nongovernmental employers' organisation of companies in the micro, small and medium businesses, founded in 1989 by the first entrepreneurs in Bulgaria in order to promote economic initiative and representation of collective interests of employers in the labour market and industrial relations. UPEE is a member of UEAPME and IOE.

The Association of the Organizations of Bulgarian Employers (AOBE), registered in 1995, is a free union of the former (before 2017) nationally representative employer organisations (BIA, BICA, BCCI and CEIBG) and is a collective member of the International Organization of Employers.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Number of Employees under labour contract

Year

Involved in collective bargaining?

Bulgarian Industrial Association /Българска стопанска камара

BIA/БСК

3,217

244,737

2012

Yes

Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (Конфедерация на работодателите и индустриалците в България)

CEIBG/КРИБ

5,636

504,984

2012

Yes

Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (Асоциация на индустриалния капитал в България)

BICA/АИКБ

6,614

335,805

2012

yes

Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Българска Търговско-промишлена палата)

BCCI/БТПП

21,977

665,714

2012

yes

Union for Private Economic Enterprise (Съюз за стопанска инициатива)

ССИ/UPEE

No data

No data

No data

No data

Source: 2012, Census of representative density of trade unions and employers organisations, Council of Ministers Counsel, quoted by BICA, quoted at: http://www.bnews.bg/article-124716

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

The main tripartite body at national level is the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation with its commissions (created in 1993) in the Council of Ministers, dealing with labour-related issues, social security and quality of life. Another tripartite body is the Economic and Social Council (2001). Under the aegis of the Ministries, according to the Labour Code, there are established Branch Councils for Tripartite Cooperation, dealing with labour related issues, social security and living standards in the respective economic branch. The nationally representative social partners participate in management bodies of different state institutions.

The bipartite bodies are organised through branch/sectoral councils for social cooperation that are engaged in social dialogue on various labour and social security-related issues between employers and trade union representatives. According to CITUB, bipartite social dialogue is provided in 12 Councils for social cooperation. There is no comprehensive data base for all bipartite bodies and their activity. At the company level social dialogue on health and safety working conditions is conducted by the Working Conditions Committees/groups (WCC/WCG)

The mechanism for information and consultation is fixed in the Labour Code (Article 7a), regulating the election of representatives for information and consultation. The number of representatives of employees in the General Assembly depends on the size of the company. Collective bargaining is regulated by the Labour Code (Chapter 4).

The Social Pact for Economic and Social Development of Bulgaria until 2009 has been signed by the government and the representative social partners. There is also an Agreement on 59 anti-crisis measures drawn up by the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation in 2010. Two more national agreements were signed in 2010: one for home-based workers (Bulgaria’s ratification of ILO Convention No. 177 on home work of 1996) and one for teleworking (implementing the European social partners’ agreement on teleworking of 16 July 2002).

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

National Council for Tripartite Cooperation/Национален съвет за тристранно сътрудничество

Tripartite

National

All labour-related issues

Economic and Social Council/Икономически и социален съвет

Tripartite

National

Economic and social development

National Council for Employment Promotion/Национален съвет за насърчаване на заетостта

Tripartite

National

National Plans for Employment and measures for increasing employment

National Consultative Council on vocational training of the labour force/Национален консултативен съвет по професионална квалификация на работната сила

Tripartite

National

Legislation and issues on vocational educations

National Council on Equality between Women and Men/Национален съвет по равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете

Tripartite

National

Equality of men and women

Workplace-level employee representation

There is no universal form of workplace representation in Bulgaria. As stated above, the Labour Code allows the election of employees as representatives at company level for information and consultation (Directive 14/2002 EC, 2006), and participants in the company General Assembly, but this form is rarely used in Bulgaria. In most cases, employees transfer the representation function to the trade unions. Two other forms of work-place representation are possible: employee representatives for the protection of employees’ economic and social interests, and health and safety committees/groups. According to a CITUB report (in Bulgarian), only 10% of the companies that could have representatives for information and consultation actually had them in 2010.

The employee representatives can be elected in all companies with at least 50 employees (Article 7c of the Labour Code) and could vote in the General Assembly in information and consultation procedures. The number of representatives (between three and nine) depends on the size of establishment. According to ECS 2009, only representatives for information and consultation are elected in 21% of companies (covering 22% of employees). Work councils are more popular amongst smaller companies, whereas the trade unions keep the traditional coverage of large establishments.

Representatives for employees are reported to be present in 22% of companies, compared to 17% having representatives for information and consultation (ECS 2013).

CITUB’s expert calculations show that around 10% of the companies had representatives for information and consultation in 2010. From a total of 33 federations, trade unions(key members of the CITUB), only nine have made steps towards establishing systems for information and consultation. According to CITUB data in 2010, there are 347 elected representatives in 137 companies with trade unions – members of CITUB.

Official national data is not available.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Representative for information and consultation/представители за информиране и консултиране

Yes

3–9 employees (depending on the establishment size)

No, the representative could vote in the General Assembly in information and consultation procedures

At least 50 employees in the establishment

Trade union section/синдикална секция

Yes

Employees in the company

yes

Minimum three members

Employee representation at establishment level

In the figure, we see a comparison between Bulgaria and European Union for the people with 'Establishment size : All' when asked 'Official structure of employee representation present at establishment'. For the 'Yes' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'No' answer, Bulgaria's score is higher than the European Union score. The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: ECS 2013. Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees. Eurofound data visualisation.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

Bargaining system

According to the Labour Code, the CLAs in Bulgaria are concluded at enterprise, branch or sector, and municipal level. On the first two levels, only one labour contract can be concluded. Usually the branch or sectoral agreements provide the general and minimum element of quality of work, in most cases not higher than those defined in labour legislation. The social partners at company level can negotiate more favourable clauses for better working conditions in the company CLA. On the municipality level the collective agreements are concluded for activities that are financed from the municipality budgets such as education, health, social services (Municipality CLA).

There is no wage bargaining coordination. The decentralisation of wage bargaining has been a typical trend for Bulgaria since 1989, and this was reinforced during the crisis.

The CLA is valid for the social partners who signed the agreement, but also for non-trade union members who can join the collective agreement under certain conditions, according to the Labour Code. The role of sectoral collective agreements has become more significant since 2010-2011 when the clause extending them to all companies in the respective sector came into force. In 2010 the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, after consulting the social partners, extended the validity of collective agreements in water supply (Feb 2010) and sewerage (Sept 2012), brewing (May 2010, Nov 2011, Sept 2013), cellulose paper (Aug 2010, Jul 2012), wood processing and furniture (2010), mining (May 2011) and metallurgy (2011). The CLA register of the General Labour Inspectorate includes information about the extended, ongoing and expired CLAs. Since 2012, there are no new extending orders by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and after 2014, there are no additional extended CLA’s.

Wage bargaining coverage

European level statistics point to collective wage bargaining coverage of between 23% and 37% within private sector establishments and suggest a fall in coverage over the past decade.

The National statistics 2010-2014 and 2014-2016, provided by the National institute for conciliation and arbitration (NICA) also cover the public sector, education and health. For 2010–2014, almost half of the CLAs at company level were in education. The other sectors with more than 6% of CLAs are health, manufacture, and state administration. The latest NICA report (2016) on company CLAs shows that in 2016, approximately 290,000 employees were covered by CLAs, of which 38,701 were working in state administration, 88,000 employed in industry and 155,000 employed in services (62.6% of all CLAs). The analysis defines the data collected as indicative. The coverage estimates are based on expert opinions since 13% of companies cannot be covered because of legislative limitations. NICA receives the text of the CLAs without additional information about their coverage. The information provided cannot be accepted as representative for all CLAs in the country. In 2015, NICA observed a steady trend since 2011 towards the conclusion of fewer collective agreements. While in 2013 a total of 1,610 CLAs were concluded, in 2014 their number decreased by more than a quarter, to 1,183 CLAs. In 2015, the number of CLAs decreased again to reach 1,024. Secondly, it should be emphasised that the ratio of signed CA to annexes is that for every three CLAs there is one annex signed, and this ratio has remained consistent over the years. The main share of concluded collective labour agreements and annexes over the past five years (2010–2015) is at the enterprise level – 92.7% of all analysed by NIPA. The second largest relative share is of municipal collective agreements and annexes to them (6.4%), and the smallest share of CLAs and the relevant annexes is at sectoral and industry level (less than 1%).

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources

Level

 

Source

All levels

23%

2013, ECS

All, excluding national level

22%

2013, ECS

All levels

37%

2010, SES

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement. More information on methodology, see here.

Collective bargaining coverage – national data

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

Registered CLA by NICA

1,548

1,610

1,183

1,024

Concluded sector level CLA during the year

25

24

23

22

Concluded company level CLA during the year

1,386

1,191

1,214

1,042

Sectoral-level CLA in force at the end of the year

25

24

23

22

Municipal level CLA in force at the end of the year

159

164

163

164

Company level CLA in force at the end of the year

2,194

2,024

2,000

1,897

Coverage of company level CLA in force at the end of the year – employees (estimate)

328,449

319,018

317,098

298,728

Source: NICA, Annual report for collective agreements on the NICA database, March 2016

Active CLA s at company level up to 31.12.2016 by main economic sectors

Number of CLAs

Employed

Public sector

Number

1,456

167,911

% from all

87.8%

67.9%

Private sector

Number

202

79,515

% from all

12.2%

32.1%

Total

Number

1,658

247,426

% of all

100%

100%

Source: NICA, Annual report for collective agreements on the NICA database, March 2016. The data about 2016 are preliminary.

Active CLAs at company level up to 31.12.2016 b y company size

Number CLA

Employed

Large

Number

194

178 514

% from all

11.7%

72.1%

Medium

Number

472

50,139

% from all

28.5%

20.3%

Small

Number

688

18,374

% from all

41.5%

7.4%

Micro-

Number

61

399

% from all

3.7%

.2%

Companies with no data about the employed

Number

243

 

% from all

14,7%

 

Total

Number

1,658

247,426

% of all

100%

100%

Source: NICA, Annual report for collective agreements on the NICA database, March 2016. The data about 2016 are preliminary.

Bargaining levels

The main issues, covered by all levels of CLAs, are related to employment, pay and working conditions.

Industry (sectoral) level CLAs include general sector specific issues such as details on bonuses for productivity, quality of work, hazardous working conditions, working time, health and safety at work, redundancy procedures, protection against discrimination, work-life balance, information and consultation issues.

Municipal level CLAs concern activities as education, health care, culture as financed by the municipality budgets. Municipal CLAs cannot define less favourable employment and working conditions than the sectoral CLAs.

Company level collective agreements are more detailed and cover qualification requirements, specific working time and leave, pay rates, health and safety, social insurance, trade union activities, disputes procedures and social benefits.

According to CITUB analyses for 2014, some of the sectoral/branch or company CLAs provide a wider scope of information and consultation, including: application of new technologies, restructuring even without direct effect on employment (enterprises and/or branch/sectoral level in metallurgy, mechanical engineering, woodworking and furniture industry, pulp and paper industry, textiles), investments (metallurgy, brewery industry, woodworking and furniture industry, paper industry), labour mobility, creating jobs for people with disabilities (metallurgy), finance of the enterprises (textile, wood and furniture, pulp and paper industry, metallurgy, mining). In some sectoral/branch or company CLAs the deadlines for providing information and consultations in cases of mass dismissals are more favourable to employees compared to the general legislative requirements (metallurgy, engineering, woodworking and furniture, pulp and paper industry, forestry, brewery industry).

There is no collective bargaining at national level, although social dialogue at national level is represented in the NCTC, discussing all labour related legislative changes and policies. Bulgaria has a minimum wage which is set by the government after consultation with employers and unions in NCTC.

Levels of collective bargaining, 2016

 

Sectoral level

Municipal level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

       

X

X

Important but not dominant level

X

X

       

Existing level

   

X

X

   

Note: Statutory Minimum wage is defined by legislation. CLAs can define the minimum wage at sector/company level, but not lower than the statutory minimum wage for the country. Working time is also defined by legislation. Company level CLAs can sometimes define working times and shifts within legislative provisions.

Articulation

There is no comparative information or specialised legislation prescribing how the levels are linked to each other. One of the possible practices could be that if a company is within a sector with a CLA, the company agreement will use most or all the provisions agreed for the sector, trying to upgrade at least some of them. However, there are companies with very detailed and comprehensive CLAs. In 2016, in the sectors K, L, N, O and S (in 2014 - sectors J, K, L, M, N, O and S) there are no sectoral CLAs, but the company level is presented (NICA). At branch level, in 2016 NICA has no information about renewed CLAs for Production of sugar and sugar products, Poultry industry, Textile industry, Feed Industry, Energy and Music and Performing Arts. The largest share of sectoral/branch CLAs up to the end of 2015 is in Industry (50%), followed by Services (45%). The social partners provide some analyses and guidelines for CLAs which could be useful in practice.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

The Labour Code prescribes the maximum duration of collective agreements as two years and this option is usually used. Therefore, there is no specific month or time of year when the negotiations begin. Negotiations are usually initiated three months before the expiry of the validity of the previous collective agreement. This applies to the sector or branch and company collective agreements on the condition that company contracts comply with the existing minimum levels at sector or branch level.

Coordination

The sectoral CLAs define the minimum wage for the sector (with individual variations depending on level of education, nature of work, working time). The employer could confirm or increase it (or decrease it in cases of derogation) taking into account the company’s economic situation, provided it is not less than the minimum statutory pay.

Vertical CLA coordination (Chapter 4, Labour Code 1986) has been replaced by the adoption of the traditional type of collective bargaining, with negotiations between equal partners or their representatives. The most important CLA in Bulgaria is at company level, followed by branch/sectoral CLAs.

Extension mechanisms

According to the Labour Code (Article 54b:4), ‘when the collective agreement at sectoral or branch level is concluded between all the representative organisations of workers and employers in the sector or industry, at their joint request the Minister of Labour and Social Policy may extend the application of the contract or of its individual clauses in all enterprises of the sector or industry’. The General Labour Inspectorate holds the CLA register, where the decisions to extend sectoral CLAs are also available. The extension mechanism has been used up to 2012–2014. For example, the industry (branch) collective agreement for the industry 'Exploration, production and processing of mineral resources" (2011–2013) has been extended for all companies, operating in B 05; B 06; B 07; B 08; B 09; C 19.2; C 20.51; C 23.52; C 23.62; C 23.7; F 42; F 43.13; H 49.41; M 72. In 2016, there are no extended CLAs.

Derogation mechanisms

If there are financial difficulties in companies (including in subsidiaries of multinational companies) the sectoral/branch or company CLAs could set wages lower than those negotiated in collective agreements for some period of time, but they must not be less than the national monthly minimum statutory wage. For instance, the Annex from 2015 of the metal industry CLA provides for a lower wage where there are reduced volumes of work or shrunken market shares.

Expiry of collective agreements

A collective agreement should be concluded for a period of at least one year. If not specified, it could last up to two years. The parties may agree a shorter duration for some of its clauses (Labour Code, Article 54:2). Negotiations for a new collective agreement shall commence not later than three months before the expiry of the current collective agreement.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

In almost all sectoral/branch and company collective agreements there are clauses concerning training, but rarely lifelong learning. As part of the sectoral CLA, the social partners in the metal industry have agreed to set up regional training centres and, in the textile sector, branch funds have been set aside for workers to get qualifications; in construction, employers have agreed to set up a special training fund.

Almost all collective agreements contain a general provision for equality and non-discrimination at work.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The Law for the settlement of collective labour disputes is the legal framework defining the ‘right to strike’. The main type of industrial action is the ‘Active strike’ (ефективна стачка), during which employees are terminating their work. It may be organised where conciliation, arbitrage or negotiations have had no success. During the strike, employees need to be present at the employer’s site within their regular working time. Another form is the ‘symbolic strike’ (символична стачка) which involves working as usual while wearing or placing appropriate signs, protest posters, ribbons, badges or other appropriate symbols. This kind of strike can also be used by healthcare workers or the police, because the law forbids active strikes within such sectors.

No official national data sources on industrial action are available for Bulgaria.

NICA maintains its own register of collective labour disputes which is not representative. The register suggests a continuous growth in the number of registered collective labour disputes since 2012, but a decline in the number of registered effective strikes in 2014. In 2015, the number of collective labour disputes, registered by NICA, was 24. Within the collective labour disputes in the country in 2015, three effective strikes have been organised.

Registered collective labour disputes, 2012–2016

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016*

Number of registered CLD (strikes incl.)

24

51

79

24

6

Number of registered effective strikes**

5

14

11

4

1

Number of employees participated in strikes

12,257

5,259

438

206

115

Number of lost working days in strikes

103,515

44,466

1,735

1,625

345

Number of employees affected by CLD

 

37,125

50,235

30,419

,3049

Source: NICA, Annual report for collective disputes on the NICA database, March 2016.

* The data about 2016 are preliminary.
** The data include one hour strikes and warning strikes in 2012–2014, only effective strikes in 2015–2016

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

According to the Law for Collective Labour Dispute Resolution, collective labour disputes are settled through direct negotiations between workers and employers or between their representatives on a procedure, freely determined by the negotiating parties. Strikes are forbidden (art. 16) in the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior, Judicial, prosecutorial and investigative bodies, State Agency ‘Intelligence’ and the National Security Service.

When no agreement is reached or one of the parties refuses to negotiate, each may seek assistance for the settlement of the dispute by mediation and/or voluntary arbitration of trade unions and employers' organisations and/or the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitration.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

According to the Labour Code (Article 357), labour disputes are between employee and employer on the occurrence, existence, implementation and termination of employment, as well as disputes over the implementation of collective agreements and the establishment of service. Such disputes could be by law (claims for rights on labour) on legislation, collective agreements or individual agreement rights and obligations. These individual disputes are dealt with by the courts. As there is no labour court in Bulgaria, the civil courts are competent for these cases, or administrative courts some cases. Trade unions and their branches are able (Labour Code, new change in 2016) to represent the employees, upon their request, in court.

There are also non-legal disputes of interest - related to the establishment of envisaged rights and obligations. This kind of individual dispute could be agreed between the employer and employee. In case the agreement cannot be achieved, the dispute resolution must be provided by the court.

According to NICA (NICA, 2012) during the period 2003–2013, 26 procedures for arbitrage were accepted by NICA. In 2015, there was only one conciliation procedure and one arbitrage procedure at NICA. The conciliation procedure was terminated due to failure to achieve an agreement between the parties in dispute. The arbitrage procedure was because of unattainable agreement with the employer, and with it decision avoided organisation of an effective strike.

It is reported that one of the main reasons for the low arbitrage activity is the refusal of one of the parties to enter into negotiations. According to NICA management, 95% of collective labour disputes are settled using direct negotiations between the disputing parties, including and with the help or support of trade unions and employers' organisations and/or government bodies, institutions and organisations directly or indirectly involved. It is possible to use extrajudicial methods for settling collective labour disputes. With the assistance of NICA, in 2012 there was one procedure to determine the minimum services that should be maintained in the case of a strike (under Article 14:3 of the Law for settlement of collective labour disputes).

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Bulgaria.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The start of employment relationship should follow the signature of a labour contract (Labour Code, Article 61).

The minimum working age is 18 years. For those over 16 and under 18 years of age, a labour contract must be authorised by the Labour Inspectorate. A work permit for a minor (below 18 years of age) must be applied for from the Labour Inspectorate. The formal requirements (documents and certificates) for entering into an employment relationship are listed in Regulation No. 4.

The labour contract has to be issued before the start of the employment relationship. Within three days of the conclusion or modification of the employment contract and within seven days of its termination the employer or authorised person is obliged to notify the relevant territorial directorate of the National Revenue Agency. At the conclusion of the employment contract, the employer informs the employee about the specific labour obligations arising from his office or work performed.

Short-term labour contracts – for short-term seasonal agricultural work – were introduced into the Labour Code in July 2015 (Article 114a:1) especially for seasonal agricultural work on a day-to-day basis between the worker and registered farmer, for work that does not qualify as work experience.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The Labour Code allows termination of the labour contract by mutual agreement without notice and without compensation (Labour Code, Article 325:1, item 1), termination initiated by the employee with a notice (Article 326:2, item 1), termination initiated by the employer during the probation period (Article 71:1), termination initiated by the employer against an agreed compensation (chl.331), job reduction. The reasons for terminating the labour relationship could be expiry of the agreed period or completion of the work specified in the contract (Labour Code, Article 325:1-12). A labour contract could be terminated also if a job is to be reassigned to someone who has the right to take it, such as someone returning from parental leave; if an employee is unable to perform assigned work due to illness resulting in permanent disability, or medical contraindications based on the conclusion of an expert medical committee. However, termination is not allowed on this last criterion if the employer has other work suitable for the health of the employee and he/she is willing to take it. An employment contract may also be terminated on the death of the person with whom the employee has entered into an employment contract or with the death of the employee.

Some categories of employees are protected in case of dismissal (Labour Code, Article 333), such as the mother of a child under three years of age; a reassigned employee; an employee suffering from a disease determined by the Minister of Health; an employee who has begun a period of permitted leave; an employee who is an elected employee representative; an employee who is elected to represent workers on safety and health at work; employee who is a member of the special negotiating body of a European Works Council or a representative body in the European commercial or cooperative sector while performing its functions. Where it is stipulated in the collective agreement, the employer may dismiss an employee because of staff cuts or reduce their volume of work with the prior consent of the relevant trade union body in the company.

See also further information on unemployment benefit provisions in Bulgaria.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The calculation of maternity leave compensations changed from 1 Jan 2015 with the introduction of the Law on the budget of the State Social Security (SSS) for 2015. The compensations for maternity leave are calculated on the basis of 90% of the average income, on the basis of 24 calendar months before the start of maternity leave (previously 18 months in 2014). The eligible person for these contributions should have a 12 month total insurance record for this social security risk.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

410 calendar days, of which 45 days obligatory should be taken before the child’s birth. The father could use instead of the mother the remainder of 410 days parental leave with the consent of the mother after the child is over 6 months of age.

Reimbursement

90% of the average gross salary or the average daily insurance income on which contributions are paid or payable to insurance and for self-employed persons - paid insurance contributions for a total illness and leave for the period of 24 calendar months (2015).

Who pays?

Social security contributions by employer and insured person for the Fund ‘General Illness and maternity’, in the proportions 60/40. The maternity leave compensations are paid by the Fund.

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Parental leave

Maximum duration

Leave for children up to two years old (two years and six months for every additional child). It can be transferred to the father, grandmother or grandfather.

Reimbursement

Cash benefit for raising a child up to two years is fixed annually in the State Budget. For 2015–2017 it was fixed at BGN 340 (€174).

Who pays?

Social Security Fund

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

1) The father of a newborn child acquires the right to use 15 calendar days of leave immediately after the delivery of the baby from the hospital.

2) The father can use the rest of 410 days parental leave with the consent of the mother after the child is over six months.

Reimbursement

1) 90% of the average gross wage or average daily contributory income for up to 15 calendar days if there are 12 months of social security contributions.2) 90% of the average gross salary

Who pays?

Social Security Fund

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Sick leave

According to Article 40:5 and Article 41 of the Social Security Code, the general principle for the insured persons for general illness and maternity is that the daily cash benefit for temporary disability due to sickness is calculated at 80% of the average gross salary, and for temporary disability due to accident or occupational disease, 90% of the average gross salary or the average daily insurance income on which social security contributions have been paid or payable The Social Security Institute pays the insured person for the first three days of the temporary disability 70% of the average monthly salary for the period the disability began, but not less than 70% of the average daily wage. An obligatory condition is that the insured should have at least 18 months of social security contributions in order to claim the compensations (Article 41:1). The Labour Code (Article 333) provides protection from termination of employment to pregnant women, mothers until their child is three, people on sick leave or on any legal leave. Under different circumstances, described in the Labour Code, the employer may make the dismissal but only with prior written permission from the labour inspectorate, which must be received before the dismissal is made.

Where general illness, professional disease or an accident at work appears 30 calendar days after termination of a labour contract, or social security contributions, compensation can be paid for temporary inability, but for no longer than 30 calendar days.

Retirement age

The conditions for retirement on the basis of social security contributions and age are regulated in the Social Security Code, (Article 68:1&2, in force since 2000). The National Social Security Institute provides detailed information on the conditions, depending on the year of retirement, gender, age and working duration. The retirement age is reached at the age of 60 years and 10 months for women and 63 years and 10 months for men, with a pensionable service of 35 years and two months for women and 38 years and 2 months for men. From 31 December 2016, the age was increased from the first day of every next calendar year as follows: up to 31 December 2029, the age for women increases by two months for each calendar year and from 1 January 1 2030 – with three months of each calendar year until the age of 65 is reached. Up to 31 December 2017, the age for men increased by 2 months, from 1 January 2018 – with one month for each calendar year until the age of 65 is reached. On 31 December 2016, the pensionable service for retirement increases from the first day of every next calendar year by two months until reaching pensionable service of 37 years for women and 40 years for men. In the case that persons are not entitled to a pension, from 31 December 2016 they become entitled to a pension at the age of 65 years and 10 months for women and men and at least 15 years actual pensionable service. From 31 December 2016, the retirement age was increased from the first day of every next calendar year by two months until until the age of 67 is reached. After 31 December 2037, the retirement age will be linked to the increase in life expectancy.

In 2016, new special provisions in the Social Security Act (art. 696b) about early retirement were introduced. Those who have worked 10 years under the first category of labour can retire if up to 31 December 2015 they are aged 47 years, 8 months for women and 52 years, 8 months for men, with the sum of pensionable service and age being 94 for women, and 100 for men. Those who have worked under the second category of labour (miners, metallurgy) have the right to retire earlier in the case of 15 years work experience under the second category of labour, and having the age of 52 years and 8 months for women, and 57 years and 8 months for men. The categories of labour are defined in Ordinance for categorisation of Labour. The new provision foresees since 31 December 2015 an increase in the pensionable age for both categories from the first day of each subsequent calendar year by two months for men and four months for women up to the age of 55 (60 years for the second category of labour).

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Bulgaria and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

Minimum wages

In Bulgaria, the government sets the monthly minimum statutory wage. The increase in 2015 and 2016 was accompanied by active debate between the social partners and the government. In general, the change in the minimum statutory wage is introduced in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation during the presentation of the State Budget.

The minimum collectively agreed wages have three main forms.

  • The minimum wage in the companies of the respective sector/industry is equal to the minimum statutory wage of the country and it is increased by an agreed coefficient.
  • In some CLAs the amount of the minimum wage in the company complies with the minimum wage for the country.
  • The minimum insurance income (MII) could be used as a basis for calculating the minimum wage for the sector/branch/company.

Minimum insurance income by economic activities and professions should not be lower than the amount of the national statutory minimum wage. The social partners have reached an agreement on minimum insurance income for 2014 for 58 of the 85 economic activities, but in 2016 MIT increased administratively in 45% of the economic sectors because of the increase of the minimum wage, without an agreement with the social partners. The minimum insurance income for 2017 is available on the webpage of the National Revenue Agency.

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see Eurofound’s topical update on statutory minimum wage in the EU 2017 or visit Eurostat.

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

There is no official information about collectively agreed pay. According to observation on CLAs, there are some sectoral CLAs (metal industry, construction, mining) that define higher pay than the minimum for the country. Company CLAs also could negotiate higher pay, but there is no data available.

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please consult Eurofound’s collectively wage bargaining portal.

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Bulgaria.

Working time regulation

The Labour Code defines the regular and extended working time duration. The maximum working time is five days per week, up to 40 working hours weekly (Article 136, Labour Code) and eight working hours per day five days per week (Article 136, Labour Code).

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult Eurofound’s report on Working time developments in the 21st century: Work duration and its regulation.

Overtime regulation

Overtime is generally forbidden according to the Labour Code. It is allowed only exceptionally (Labour Code, Articles 143 and 144) in the following cases: to perform work in connection with the defence of the country; for the prevention, control and overcome the effects of disasters; to carry out urgent public works necessary for restoration of water, electricity, heating, sanitation, transport and communication links and medical assistance; to carry out emergency repairs and restoration work in the workplaces, machinery or other equipment; to complete the work started, which cannot be done during regular working hours; for intensive seasonal agricultural work.

The duration of overtime in a calendar year for an employee may not exceed 150 hours (Article 146:1&2). The duration of overtime may not exceed: three hours daily or 20 hours of night work in one calendar month; two days six hours or four hours of night work in one calendar week; three days three hours or two hours night work in two consecutive days. Overtime work shall be paid (Article 262, Labour Code) with an increase agreed between the employee and the employer, but not less than: +50% for weekdays; +75% for weekend work; +100% for work during official holidays; +50% for work when summarised calculation of working time.

Part-time work

Part-time work in Bulgaria is defined by the Labour Code (Article 138). Reduction of the volume of work could provide the opportunity for the employer to establish up to three months in a calendar year part-time work, after prior consultation with representatives of trade unions or representatives of employees.

There are special provisions (Ordinance on the types of work which qualify for reduced working hours) about occupations that present health risks which cannot be eliminated, restricted or reduced, but a reduction in working hours (six and seven hours per day) results in limiting these risks for employees. In general, part-time work cannot be less than half of the statutory working hours. In a daily calculation of working hours, the daily duration of part-time work may not be less than four hours in a normal eight-hour working day; three-and-a-half hours in a normal seven-hour working day; and three hours in a six-hour working day. According to the data, part-time work in Bulgaria is a relatively rare labour practice, in 2016 it was reported by 1.9% of all employed, 2.2% of women 1.7% of men and well below the EU average for the same period.

Persons employed part time in Bulgaria and EU28 (% of total employment)

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Total – EU28

18.2

18.6

19.0

19.0

19.0

18.9

Total – BG

2.1

2.2

2.5

2.4

2.2

1.9

Women – EU28

31.0

31.4

31.8

31.7

31.5

31.4

Women – BG

2.4

2.5

3.0

2.7

2.4

2.2

Men – EU28

7.4

7.7

8.1

8.2

8.2

8.2

Men – BG

1.9

2.0

2.0

2.2

1.9

1.7

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Night work

Working at night is labour which is engaged in from 22.00 until 06.00. The normal weekly working time for night work (art. 140 and 140а, LC) in a 5-day working week is 35 hours. The normal working hours overnight in a 5-day working week is up to 7 hours. The employer is obliged to provide employees with hot food, refreshments and other mitigating circumstances for the effective application of night work. Night work is prohibited for persons under 18 years of age, or for pregnant employees, for women in an advanced stage of IVF treatment, mothers with children up to 6 years of age and mothers who care for children with disabilities regardless of their age; it is also prohibited for employees who continue their education without interruption of production.

Shift work

When the nature of the manufacturing process requires it, the work in the company is organised into two or more shifts (Art. 141). The law describes as mixed shift work when it includes day and night work. The mixed shift of 4 or more night hours is considered to be a night shift, and when it is less than 4 hours of night work, this shift is considered to be a day shift. The rotation of shifts in the enterprise is defined in the regulations for internal labour order. It is prohibited to assign another work tasks between two consecutive shifts. For enterprises with a continuous process of work the employee cannot suspend their work until the arrival of the replacing employee without the permission of the immediate supervisor. In these cases, the immediate superior shall take the necessary measures to find a substitute employee.

Weekend work

Weekend work is addressed by the Labour code (art.262, 264) as a kind of overtime work during day offs and official national holidays. The provisions define the payment of such labour: when the extra work is done during day offs – 75%; during national holidays – 100%.

Rest and breaks

The aim of rest periods is to provide time for a short rest for the employee in the interval between working periods and is a concrete expression of labour protection. It is a constitutional right (art. 48 para. 5 of the Constitution), described in the Labour Code (art. 151-154) and in the Ordinance on working hours, rests and holidays (OWRH). Depending on the nature of work and work organisation, the working day may be divided into two or three parts (art.139, 4, LC). The rests are not included within the working time.

The legislation defines three types of rests:

  • Rest during the working day (Art. 151, LC). The duration of the rests should be defined by the internal rules of the enterprise, but one of it should be for meals – not shorter than 30 minutes. The rests should be arranged so as that they do not violate the 12 hours continuous daily break.
  • A rest break between two consecutive working days (art. 152, LC). The minimum duration is 12 hours. It should also be ensured by the employer in the case of shift work – after each shift (art. 20, par. 3, OWRH). The legal requirement is that this rest should be continuous, secured at once and entirely.
  • Weekly rest (art. 153, LC) – between two consecutive working weeks. It includes two consecutive working days (originally one of them is Sunday). Weekly rest can be measured in hours, and the minimum duration is 48 hours. In case of a summarised calculation of working time, enterprises with a continuous work process and with shift changes, the continuous weekly rest period should be not less than 24 hours.

Working time flexibility

The changes in the Labour Code from 2011 (New section VІІІb, Fifth Chapter, Article 107) regulated the labour conditions for telework.

Flexible work is still seemingly unpopular among entrepreneurs. In all the different sizes of company, flexibility is an option only for up to 20% of employees. Supporting the ECS result, National Statistics show that about 24,000 workers can determine their own working hours and they represent about 1% of the total employees in the country (NSI indicates that the data concerns respondents that have dependants, children or elderly relatives, and is for 2010).

Do you have fixed start and finishing time in your work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Bulgaria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have fixed starting and finishing times in your work?'. For the 'No' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Bulgaria's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 39d from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Bulgaria.

Health and safety at work

The Law for Health and Safety at Work (LHSW) regulates the rights and obligations of employers, employees, the state institutions and social partners for keeping workplaces healthy and safe. CLAs in general also include health and safety issues, according to the sector specifics. The national strategy for health and safety at work is functioning on tripartite basis. Regional councils for tripartite cooperation on safe and healthy working conditions are created in all administrative regions. There are committees at work in enterprises through which the dialogue between the employer and employees takes place. The General Labour Inspectorate is the main state institution, controlling the working conditions.

Eurostat data show a decrease in the numbers of working days lost due to work-related accidents from 2008 to 2014.

The number of cases of temporary disability associated with the main activity of an enterprise is significantly higher than reported by the National Social Insurance Institute, according to the National Working Conditions Survey. This is due to hospital protocols for mild traumatic disabilities which mean that some injuries are not declared as occupational accidents.

The national statistics show stability in the number of accidents and working days lost. The decreased number of accidents could be caused by the employment shrinkage, underreporting or improvement of working conditions, but there is no information to explain such trends.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

All accidents

2,437

1,961

1,800

1,748

1,768

1,662

1,772

Percentage change from previous year

-

-19.5

-8.2

-2.9

1.1

-6.0

6.6

Per 1,000 employees

0.8

0.7

0.7

0.7

0.7

0.6

0.7

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Psychosocial risks

Around 50% of employees reported that their job requires working to tight deadlines at least a quarter of the time, and close to one third are working longer than 10 hours (EWCS).

According to the National Working Conditions Survey 2012, 27% of employees work more than 10 hours, 30% are working during weekends. In general, employees report having health problems: about one third have problems with their vision, back pain, headache and muscle pain and 40% complain of stress. More than 60% report a feeling of general fatigue. Between 20% and 26% report having sleep problems, anxiety and irritation.

Work intensity: Do you have enough time to get the job done?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Bulgaria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have enough time to get the job done?'. For the 'Always or most of the time' answer, Bulgaria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Rarely or never' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Sometimes' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 61g from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Bulgarian system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

Vocational guidance, training and vocational education is carried out for professions and specialties included in the list of professions for vocational education and training. The list is approved by the Minister of Education and Science after consultation with the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, and the relevant sectoral ministers and the representative organisations of employers and employees at national level. The National Agency for Vocational Education and Training (NAVET) is a government body that licenses activities in vocational education and training and coordinates institutions involved in vocational guidance, training and education. The representatives of social partners are members of the managing body of the NAVET and sit on the 17 expert commissions on professional orientations and the list of professions.

Ordinance No. 2 of 13 November 2014 about the terms and conditions for validation of professional knowledge, skills and competence acquired through non-formal education or learning has been in force since 1 January 2015. The institutions that have the right to carry out validation are: professional schools; professional high schools; art schools; sports schools; vocational colleges; vocational training centres. The control of validation is performed by the Regional Inspectorates on Education and NAVET.

Training

The professional training and qualification are defined in the Labour Code (Chapter 11). The employer is obliged to maintain and enhance the professional qualifications of employees so that they can perform their obligations under the employment relationship as their work requires it and develop their future career. Employees are obliged to participate in training organised or financed by the employer to maintain and increase their professional qualifications, improve their professional skills, and raise their qualification level in line with the nature of the work performed. The Labour Code provides opportunities for employers to sign a labour contract with someone still in school or training and then accept the student to complete or enhance their qualification while working for a period agreed by the parties which cannot be longer than six years.

The National consultative council for qualification of the labour force, created within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy as a tripartite body, aims to coordinate the development of national policies and strategies on training for acquiring professional qualification for the unemployed and employed. The Council creates the conditions for dialogue between the representative organisations of employers and employees at national level as regards to lifelong learning and coordinates training needs for acquiring professional qualification of the unemployed group.

Actually, the level of paid time for training is not much dependant on the presence of employee representation. The general practice in Bulgaria is that it is provided in less than 23% of the establishments (EWCS).

Training: Have you had any on the job training in the past year?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Bulgaria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, Bulgaria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 65c from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For Bulgaria, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013, 50.4% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 42.4% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and 11.9% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Bulgaria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, Bulgaria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Bulgaria's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 54b from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey.

The National Working Conditions Survey 2012 reports recent trends of intensification of work with unfavourable health impacts. In the last three to four years, the operative programmes have provided resources for projects on working organisation, but there is no data about their outputs and effectiveness.

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Principles of equality and non-discrimination are included in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. The Labour Code prohibits all forms of discrimination, privileges or restrictions based on gender and introduces the principle of equal pay for women and men. Anti-discrimination provisions relating to gender are included in the Law on Employment Promotion, Social Assistance Act, the Higher Education Act, the Law on Defence and Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria, Law on Protection against Discrimination and others. For example, the Law for Employment Promotion defines that when advertising vacancies, employers may not set preconditions on gender, age, nationality, ethnicity and health. According to the Labour Code (Article 8:3), when implementing labour rights and duties, employers may not use direct or indirect discrimination based on nationality, origin, gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, age, political and religious beliefs, membership of trade unions and other public organisations and movements, family and financial situation, the availability of mental or physical disabilities, or differences in the duration of contract or working time. The Social Insurance Code introduces the principles of mandatory and universal provision and equality of insured persons.

The state body controlling anti-discrimination activities is the Commission on protection against discrimination.

Many CLAs include provisions on equality and non-discrimination at work as special measures related to working women: these include matters such as flexible working time during raising children; reduced working time for pregnant women and mothers with children up to three years of age; flexible working hours; free transportation; additional paid leave of two days for women with two or more children up to 18 years; additional paid leave of one day in each month for single mothers; opportunity for both parents at the same time of year to have annual leave in the same period; social benefits and payments during the leave, childbirth and child care, sickness pay, sick leave, at national and religious holidays, annual leave; additional financial compensation to the statutory benefit under the Social Security Code (Article 50:1) for employees on parental leave to care for a child up to the age of two, to bring their income up to the minimum wage for the industry or their usual basic salary; social programmes – including medical check-ups at the employer’s expense.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

According to the legislation (Article 243 of Labour Code) women and men have the right to equal pay for equal work, and this applies to all payments under the employment relationship. According to the Commission on protection against discrimination, the high rate of feminisation in certain sectors of the economy, including hotels and restaurants, textiles and leather goods, education, health, medical care, financial intermediation, means that collective labour agreements include gender equality clauses related to wages and holidays.

The national mechanism for gender equality is coordinated by the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and the institution of the national Ombudsman. At legislative level, the National Assembly adopts issues of gender equality raised by its Commission on Human Rights and Complaints as a result of information provided by citizens. The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is an independent specialised state body that oversees prevention and protection from discrimination and ensures equal opportunities. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (and its departments, ‘Policy for people with disabilities, equal opportunities and social benefits’ and the ‘Equal opportunities, non-discrimination and social benefits’) is part of the national mechanism for quality, responsible for the development and coordination of the state policy on gender equality in all areas. The executive agency ‘General Labour Inspectorate’ controls compliance with the provisions on protection of employed women and promoting employment.

Eurostat data show that the gender pay gap in Bulgaria was 18.9% in 2002, then decreased sharply by over six percentage points by 2006 (12.4%). The decreasing trend continued during the first years of the crisis (the gap was steady at about 12%), and then in 2008–2009 it rose to 13%. Over the entire period of 2002 to 2012, the average gender pay gap has been about 14.7%.

The Commission in protection against discrimination published analysis of results from a national representative survey on equality and discrimination, requested by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The conclusion about the gender pay gap is:

15% of those surveyed believe men earn more than women in identical positions; nearly half of the respondents (43.9%) think men and women are equally paid. Gender and raising a child in the family potentially leads to refusal of promotion, despite low percentage numbers which indicate low incidence. ‘Voluntary’ choice of women with little children to avoid senior posts, rather than discrimination, may be assumed. Nevertheless, a traditional conviction remains for gender division of management roles in certain public spheres, markedly in the police forces – 70.6% would have more confidence in males in executive positions. Less than half of the surveyed are in favour of males in other positions. (p.8)

The state body that controls anti-discrimination activities is the Commission on protection against discrimination. The Law on Protection against Discrimination (Article 14:1) defines that an employer shall ensure equal pay for equal work. The Commission on protection against discrimination monitors the implementation and observance of laws governing equal treatment.

The trade unions have launched different initiatives to address the issue of equal pay. For instance, the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria has popularised the issue during the International Day for equal pay. CITUB’s information portal for collective bargaining publishes good practices in the drawing up of CLA provisions that focus on work-life balance. Social partners regularly participate in various conferences and seminars and in round tables to discuss equality between women and men. In 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy launched the Gender Project for Bulgaria, with a committee tasked with working with women, children, young people and families at CITUB. The Trade Union of Bulgarian Teachers designated November 2016 as the ‘Month for equal pay’ and invited the general public to its Information Day for equal pay.

Quota regulations

The Law for civil servants (art. 9a) sets a quota for working places for people with disabilities (Article 9a); at least of 2% of the total number of administrative staff in public service establishments that employ more than 50 people must be offered to people with disabilities. In establishments with a total headcount of 26 to 50 people, at least one person with disabilities should be employed.

Bibliography

Bibliography

BICA, (2012) Census of representative density of trade unions and employers organisations, Council of Ministers.

Centre for the Study of Democracy (2013), The Hidden Economy in Bulgaria in 2013, roundtable presentation, Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, Sofia, 20 November 2013.

CITUB (2012), Impact of the economic crisis on the national system of industrial relations in Bulgaria. Policies as a key instrument for recovery, Centre for Economic Development, Sofia.

CITUB (2012), Problems and policies to balance family and work life (in Bulgarian, 5.8 MB PDF), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Sofia.

CITUB (2010), Analyses of social dialogue and the collective bargaining at sectoral and branch level, webpage, accessed 5 November 2015.

CITUB (2013), Index of labour climate. Comparative analysis 2010-2012 (analytical report)(in Bulgarian, 2 MB PDF), CITUB, Sofia.

Eurofound (2014), Bulgaria: Representativeness of the European social partner organisations in the cross-industry social dialogue, Dublin.

Fulton, L. (2013), Worker representation in Europe, Labour Research Department and ETUI, produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.

Industrial profile Bulgaria (2013-2015), Ariale, data about membership and density of representative social partners for 2012 (p.15)

Kirov, V. (2011), Преструктуриране на българските предприятия – социологически анализ [Restructuring and Social Dialogue in Times of Crisis. Sociological Analysis], Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia.

Mediapool (2015), Due to the adoption of important decisions without discussion employers plan to leave NCTC, 10 February (in Bulgarian).

Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (2014), Report on equality between women and men in Bulgaria for 2013 (in Bulgarian, 2.8 MB MS Word), Sofia.

NICA (2012), Annual Report 2012, Sofia.

NICA (2015), Annual Report 2015, Sofia

NICA (2016), Annual Report 2016, Sofia (preliminary data).

Stoilova, R., Ivkov, B., Nikolova, G (2010), Analysis of results from a national representative survey on equality and discrimination (241 KB MS Word), Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Sofia.

Vachkova, E. Dynamics of flexible employment in Bulgaria in the context of the global crisis (1996-2008)

Visser, J. (2014), Database on institutional characteristics of trade unions, ‘Wage setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts, 1960-2011’ (ICTWSS), Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS, University of Amsterdam.

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment

Click to share this page to Facebook securely

Click to share this page to Twitter securely

Click to share this page to Google+ securely

Click to share this page to LinkedIn securely