Female transport workers exposed to high levels of violence

A study by the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria found that violence at work affects a significant number of female employees of Sofia’s four urban transport companies. The proportion of respondents reporting exposure to physical or psychological violence varied considerably between the companies, but the rates were alarmingly high compared with the results of other European surveys. Passengers were the main perpetrators in three of the companies.

About the survey

In November 2010 the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria (FTTUB) presented the findings of a survey on workplace violence towards female employees of urban transport companies in Sofia. The report included proposals for action by the companies to combat violence towards women in the workplace.

The survey was carried out under a framework agreement concluded in 2009 between FTTUB and the Municipality of Sofia on joint action to prevent and combat violence and harassment against women working on the Sofia urban transport system.

The survey was conducted in four companies operating the Sofia urban transport system:

The only respondents to the anonymous questionnaire were women employed by these companies. Although the survey is not representative of the whole transport sector, it provides valuable insights into the nature and magnitude of the issue.

Main findings

High level of perceived risk of workplace violence

The female workers reported high levels of perceived risk of violence in their workplace – lowest in the bus company (28.5%) and highest in the metro company (100%) (Figure 1). Risk of violence is also very high (88.7%) for women working for the Centre for Urban Mobility. This is not surprising given that the jobs have the common features of interaction with the public, controlling functions, working alone, and working early in the morning or at night.

Figure 1: Perceived risk of exposure to workplace violence (%)


Note: Answers to the question: ‘Do you consider that there is a risk of violence for you in the workplace?’

Source: FTTUB (2010)

Prevalence of work-related violence

Despite the considerable differences in the prevalence of different types of violence in the four companies (Figure 2), the rates found by the Bulgarian survey are much higher than those reported at national level in some European surveys. The main reasons are, as previously mentioned, the specific features of the work and the occupations of the respondents.

A significant and alarming proportion of women working on the urban transport system in Sofia (80% in the tram company and 100% in the metro company) reported having been exposed to bullying and/or harassment at work. The lowest level (35.8%) was reported by those working for the bus company.

Incidences of physical violence were reported by one in four respondents at the tram company and by one in three at the Centre for Urban Mobility.

Figure 2: Prevalence of workplace violence (%)


Note: Answers to questions: ‘Have you been exposed to bullying and/or harassment?’ and ‘Have you been victim of physical violence commuting to work and at work?’

Source: FTTUB (2010)

Perpetrators of violence

The survey found that workplace violence (psychological and physical) experienced by women working for the metro company or for the Centre for Urban Mobility had originated mostly from a third party (passengers, clients) (Figure 3). An alarming finding was the high proportion of respondents indicating that they had been exposed to violence from their colleagues (42.8% at the bus company and 33.3% at the tram company). A quarter of the respondents in the metro company and 16.6% of those at the tram company also claimed to have suffered violence perpetrated by their managers.

Figure 3: Perpetrator of violence (%)


Note: Answers to the question: ‘If you have been victim or witness of physical or psychological harassment, please indicate who the perpetrator was?’

Source: FTTUB (2010)


There are few surveys on workplace violence in Bulgaria. The survey of women working for the companies operating in the capital’s urban transport system reveals rates of exposure to violence in the companies surveyed that are much higher than those recorded at national level (see EWCS 2010 results), indicating that violence is a source of significant occupational risk in the sector. Preventing and reducing this risk demands increasing awareness and a shared commitment by employers and trade unions. The agreement on the prevention of violence in urban transport concluded between FTTUB and the Municipality of Sofia provides an example of good practice.


FTTUB (2010), Findings of the survey on workplace violence to women carried out in Sofia urban transport companies [in Bulgarian], Sofia.

Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

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