Negotiations for new partnership agreement begin

In July 2006, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the new Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria held negotiations on a future bipartite partnership agreement on economic development. In the framework of this agreement, the partners propose to establish vocational training centres and will also create a website on the informal economy in which the names of companies with wages and social security contribution arrears will appear. The partners also intend to develop a website highlighting the top performing companies that promote workers’ rights.

On 17 July 2006, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the newly established employer organisation Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG) held negotiations on a future bipartite partnership agreement on developing the economy. During the negotiations, both confederations announced that, until the conclusion of a new bipartite agreement, they would observe last year’s agreed provisions in the signed joint framework for a national economic and social development pact (BG0511201N). The pact had been signed separately on the employer side by the then two independent organisations, the Employers Association in Bulgaria (EABG) and the Bulgarian International Business Association (BIBA), which subsequently merged in May 2006 to form CEIBG – The Voice of Bulgarian Business (BG0606019I).

Combating poverty and the informal economy

The common vision of CITUB and CEIBG for the new agreement is based on the commitment of both confederations to combat poverty, the informal economy and unfair competition. Accordingly, they will unite their efforts in developing a stable and competitive economy for Bulgaria in the accession process accedes to the European Union. In addition, both confederations endeavour to foster the corporate social responsibility of companies.

CITUB President, Jeliazko Hristov, and CEIBG Co-presidents, Ivo Prokopiev and Sasha Bezuhanova, declared their joint commitment to develop a website by the end of September 2006, aimed at curbing the informal economy. The website will list companies that violate core labour and human rights at the workplace and that have wage and social security contribution arrears.

The social partners also intend to publish online examples of best performing companies that promote workers’ rights. This initiative will be supported by a joint action on compiling and disseminating codes of conduct that conform to international agreements on corporate social responsibility.

Further areas for cooperation

The talks between the social partners highlighted the need for improving economic, financial, investment, tax and industrial policy, as well as employment policy and vocational education and training. In the area of qualifications and encouraging human resource development, both confederations intend to establish joint vocational training centres.

Future discussions should consider the potential scope for bipartite cooperation, such as:

  • preparing joint positions related to improving representativeness criteria, and strengthening the independence and capacity building of the social partners;
  • increasing the social insurance threshold negotiated as the minimum wage (BG0307101F) – as well as implementing and improving profit sharing and bonus schemes – through collective bargaining at company level;
  • dialogue and cooperation in implementing the new legislative provision for information and consultation at the workplace in the context of protecting workers’ rights and improving company performance, including at multinational level.

One of the most important areas for cooperation, according to both confederations, is the development of joint projects in order to participate effectively in various Bulgarian and international programmes. This cooperation will be extended also to the monitoring committees of programmes financed by the EU.

Divergent views

During the negotiations, some differences arose in interpreting the scope and direction of labour and social legislation reforms towards greater labour market flexibility. Some divergences have also emerged in relation to the possibilities for further decreasing the social insurance and tax burden on business. Nevertheless, both sides declared a willingness to overcome these differences through mutually acceptable compromises.

Lyuben Tomev, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)

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