Bulgaria: Latest developments in working life Q2 2019
A wage increase for city transport workers in Sofia, the rise in the number of violations of labour rights in 2018 and changes to a training voucher scheme for employed people are 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 2019.
Transport workers in Sofia to get pay rise
The wages of city transport workers in Sofia will increase by 30% from 2020 to 2023 (at a rate of 10% per year). This is according to an agreement that is due to be signed between the Sofia Municipality and the transport trade unions. The agreement was proposed by Plamen Dimitrov, President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB), and is supported by Dimitar Manolov, President of the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa), as well as the Transport Commission of the Sofia Municipality.
Sofia’s Mayor Yordanka Fandakova was a direct participant in the negotiations and stressed that the agreement was just a part of the measures that the municipality was undertaking to improve the working conditions of the city’s transport employees. Since the beginning of 2019, the wages of tram, metro and bus drivers have increased by 10% on two occasions. Free courses for developing qualifications and skills, and new uniforms for personnel, have also been provided. 
During the last round of negotiations on 1 July, CITUB President Dimitrov announced that a long-term agreement on the wages of Sofia’s city transport workers would guarantee stability and security. It would also help to encourage the current workers and attract new applicants to positions in Sofia’s transport industry. CITUB also insisted that rules on overtime work need to be established so that it remains limited and within a legal framework. 
Increase in labour rights violations in 2018
More than 20,000 Bulgarians did not regularly receive their salaries during 2018, according to a report released by CITUB on the violation of labour rights in Bulgaria.  There were also many cases where payments were delayed and work was undertaken without a contract. Unpaid salaries for 2018 amounted to BGN 27 million (€13.8 million as at 22 July 2019).
At a forum dedicated to labour rights, CITUB Vice-President Chavdar Hristov stated that the number of times rights related to working time were breached increased in 2018. This was supported by the CITUB report, which found that there were 19,524 infractions connected to working time in 2018 and most occurred in the retail, restaurant, agriculture and livestock farming sectors. There were also breaches in relation to the aggregated calculation of working time and shift work of more than 12 hours, and the implementation of rest breaks and resting periods for workers.
A large number of labour right infractions had to do with the implementation and management of health and safety at work. Such violations were observed in the construction, retail and restaurant sectors. In Bulgaria, there were 3.57 accidents at work per 100,000 employees compared to the EU28 average of 1.83.
The General Labour Inspectorate currently has 360 inspectors. According to Executive Director Rumyana Mihaylova, this number is insufficient to control the violation of rights linked to working conditions. 
Over 4,000 applications for training voucher scheme
More than 4,000 people applied for training vouchers in April–May after the admission process was extended. The training vouchers are provided through the ‘Vouchers for the employed’ scheme, which is part of the Human Resources Development operational programme being implemented by Bulgaria’s employment agency.
In order to be eligible for a voucher, applicants cannot work for the state administration. If they have a university degree, they must be over 55 years of age. If they have a secondary or lower school degree, there are no age limits.
There is a new requirement that applicants should co-finance 50% of the value of the training voucher that they receive (previously they had to co-finance 25%). According to Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy Zornitsa Roussinova, this is designed to ensure that candidates are equally as engaged in their education as the training institutions, and are motivated to complete their training courses. 
The trade unions had reservations about the increase in co-financing. Yulia Simeonova, CITUB National Secretary, warned that this could prevent some people from benefiting from the vouchers and lower the quality of the training, as some training providers may find it difficult to put together a group that is large enough to justify a high-quality trainer. She added that big enterprises are in a privileged position, because they can afford such a high percentage of co-financing, unlike micro and small enterprises.
The anticipated wage increase for city transport workers in Sofia (in the form of a long-term agreement) is the outcome of the fruitful cooperation between the trade unions and the city’s municipality over the last few years. In terms of the training voucher scheme, the impact of the increased co-financing requirement upon the scope and quality of the training will be evaluated next year.