Bulgaria: Latest working life developments – Q2 2016

Approval of representative social partners, new rules on the labour rights of Bulgarian workers posted abroad, proposals to deal with unpaid wages and discussions on the minimum wage are among the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Bulgaria in the second quarter of 2016.

Increase in employment

In May 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) reported that, according to the Employment Agency, the unemployment rate had fallen for the third consecutive month. In April 2016, the unemployment rate was 9.3% – a decrease of 0.6% from March 2016. On an annual basis, the decrease was 1.4%. Data show that 27,264 people started work in April 2016, of whom 24,356 were previously unemployed, and 2,908 had participated in subsidised employment programmes.

The MLSP also reported a rise in labour market demand. In April 2016, employers reported 23,000 job vacancies to the labour offices – 2,373 more than in April 2015. The highest demand was in the hotels and restaurants (5,658), manufacturing (5,504), commerce (3,118), governance (1,482) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (1,432) sectors.

A total of 291 placements on employment programmes were reported to the labour offices; 3,276 placements were offered under the programme for Human Resources Development Operational Programme.

Social partners’ representativeness and membership

Following the national representation census, the social partners are expecting the Council of Ministers to verify their right to be nationally representative and to participate in social dialogue in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC).

The Confederation of Labour Podkrepa, the largest of the nationally representative partners, declared 80,000 members. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) on 13 May 2016 announced an association with the Federation of Trade Unions in the Financial Sector, which has about 5,000 members. The Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association has increased its membership, reaching 10,000 companies with a total of 500,000 employees.

Minimum working conditions for Bulgarians working abroad

The MLSP has announced that legislative changes extending the labour rights of Bulgarian employees posted to other EU countries will come into force soon. The amendments state that it will be possible to post or send workers abroad only if there is a formal employment relationship between the company and the employee throughout the period of posting. Employers should provide Bulgarian posted workers with at least the same minimum working conditions as for employees performing the same or similar work in Bulgaria.

Protection of employees in the case of unpaid wages

CITUB has proposed changes to the Labour Code concerning delayed or unpaid wages. According to the General Labour Inspectorate (GLI), BGN 19.5 million (€9.9 million) in wages remained unpaid in 2015 (PDF). The GLI has detected 12,654 legislative violations concerning unpaid or delayed wages – 11.5% of the total number of detected violations. CITUB has identified a decreasing trend in the total amount of delayed payments (PDF) from 2011 to 2015.

CITUB is proposing a guaranteed wage rate (60% of the gross salary, but not less than the minimum wage, for no more than two monthly salaries) in the case of objective financial difficulties for employers.

Proposed change to minimum wage

The government is planning to increase the statutory monthly minimum wage from BGN 420 (€214) in 2016 to BGN 460 (€235) in 2017. The social partners are continuing to discuss the determination of the minimum wage. The trade unions support the planned increase while the employers are against it, arguing that the increase is greater than the growth in labour productivity and 50% higher – and in some sectors 75% higher – than the growth in average wages. The Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria is concerned that the government frequently does not take into account the employers’ position on the minimum wage within the NCTC.

 

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