Bulgaria: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017
Increases in the minimum retirement pension and minimum wage, protests by police at border checkpoints, and a Bulgarian elected Vice-President of the largest European trade union organisation, are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Bulgaria in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Increases in minimum retirement pension and minimum wage
The minimum pension was increased from 1 October 2017 to BGN 200 (€102 as at 18 January 2018). This is the second stage of the rise in the minimum retirement pension – the first, in July 2017, was a 10.3% increase, from BGN 161.38 to BGN 180 (€82.34 to €91.84). This has resulted in a total increase of 24% affecting more than 824,000 pensioners.
The minimum wage has also increased. The increase by 10.9% to BGN 510 (€260) from 1 January 2018 affects the incomes of more than 417,000 workers. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (KNSB/CITUB) and The Confederation of Labour “Podkrepa” (CL “Podkrepa”) had called for the minimum wage to go up to BGN 530 (€270) and not to be taxed.
Police protest at border checkpoints
On 22 December 2017, police officers again held protests demanding better pay and conditions. The protests, which begun during the summer, were concentrated around the border checkpoints of Elhovo, Varna, Durankulak, Kulata and Strezimirovtsi. People entering or exiting Bulgaria passed without delays.
More than 20 similar protests over issues such as old uniforms and low wages have been organised over the last nine years but without results. However, police have suspended their threat of continued protests in January 2018 (when Bulgaria begins its presidency of the Council of the European Union) after it was announced on 11 January that the police would receive an extra BGN 100 million (€51 million) to fund their pay rise.
CITUB leader elected vice-president of ETUC
On 25 October, CITUB leader Plamen Dimitrov was elected vice-president of the largest European trade union organisation – the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). Since 2014, Mr Dimitrov has also represented Bulgaria on the governing body of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The increase in the minimum statutory wage is causing a deepening rift between the social partners. Problems in the security sector seem unresolved despite a 5% increase of BGN 64 million (€33 million) in the 2018 budget of the Ministry of Interior, from BGN 1.233 billion (€630 million), to BGN 1.296 billion (€662 million).