Bulgaria: Annual Review 2011

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 28 November 2012


Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The elections for President and Vice-President and local authorities were won by the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria. After the elections the Parliament adopted changes to the pension system without consultation with the social partners in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. That forced Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and Confederation of Labour Podkrepa to decide to leave the NCTC and the District Councils for Tripartite Cooperation and to prepare national protests.

1. Political and economic developments (200 words)

Please give very brief details of:

  • The government (s) in office during 2011

The government in office was formed by Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) in the middle of 2009.

  • Any general or significant regional/local elections held in 2011

In 2011 were held regional elections. Local elections were categorically won by CEDB. Were elected 14 mayors of district towns by CEDB, eight by Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), two by the right-wing parties, one by Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and two by independent candidates.

  • Any other significant political events which took place in 2011

In 2011 were held the elections for President and Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Were elected the candidates of the CEDB - Rosen Plevnevliev (President) and Margarita Popova (Vice President).

  • Any forthcoming national or important regional/local elections or significant political event

There are not foreseeing any national or important regional/local elections.

  • Any major economic developments which are likely to impact upon employment and industrial relations.

The crisis did not affect the financial and banking system in Bulgaria, but has reduced the inflow of foreign direct investment, has increased inter-company debt, making it difficult payment of wages and social security benefits. In 2011 the inflation increased to 4.2 % and the unemployment to 10.1%.

If a new government took office during the year, briefly summarise the implications for policy on employment and industrial relations.

2. Legislative developments (300 words)

Please give brief details of important legislative developments with implications for industrial relations and working conditions, where these are not covered in other sections of your response. For example, this might include new or amended legislation on issues such as employment rights, working time, pay and conditions of employment, termination of contract, equality, social security (with implications for the employment relationship), training, new forms of work, the labour market, health and safety etc.

In 2011 significant changes were made to the Labour Code relating to settlement of the rights of home based workers, teleworkers and workers employed by TAW.

  • The Labour Code provides the same rights of those workers as well as other workers employed under an employment contract - ensuring their rights on payment, health and safety, social and health insurance, training and retraining, working time, use the social benefits. They have right to join trade union in the enterprise or collective agreement, the right to information and consultation.

The employer provides the same working conditions, pay and equal treatment such has provided to employees who work in the enterprise.

For the hiring of workers by TAW Labour Code stipulates several limitations:

  • TAW can conclude labor contracts with employees, but only to replace an absent employee or contract for the completion of a job at the user undertaking;
  • TAW cannot conclude an employment contract to be sent for execution of work in companies related to national security and defense or in company which is on strike.

In 2011 were made amendments in the Social Insurance Code. The new provisions are for gradually raising the retirement age and the necessary service with 4 months a year to be reaching 37 years of service for women and 63 years age and 40 years of service for men and 65 years age.

3. Organisation and role of the social partners (300 words)

Please provide brief details of any major changes in the organisation and role of the social partners in your country during 2011. This might include trade union or employers’ organisation mergers, changes to social dialogue structures, or changes in membership levels and representativeness.

In 2011 there were not changes in the structures of the social dialogue and in the representativeness of social partners.

In the late 2011 the government took action and passed a bill through parliament conserning amendments to the Social Security Code without consulting the social partners in the NCTC.

The ignoring the social dialogue and the violating the principles of tripartism by the side of the government forced Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa) to decide to leave the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) and the District Councils for Tripartite Cooperation and to prepare national protests (BG 1112011I).

The vacuum of tripartite dialogue was filled by intensive bipartite dialogue, initiated by the CITUB. The trade unions and employer’s associations have agreed to develop common proposals to the Government in the following areas: measures to stabilize the pension system;

legislative changes related to improving the system of tripartite and bipartite dialogue; legislative changes related to the development of industrial relations.

Trade unions and employers worked out several common proposals to government to improve the work of NCTC – rules for convening and conducting meetings of the NCTC and the committees, procedures for informing the government for the positions of the partners and decisions of the NCTC and improved cooperation with the Parliament, its commissions and individual members of the Parliament.

4. Developments in collective bargaining and social dialogue (350 words)

Please give details of the number of collective agreements negotiated in 2011 by level (eg. national, sectoral, company), compared with numbers of agreements negotiated in 2010. Outline any trends/shifts between levels of bargaining, or changes in bargaining coverage.

The number of collective agreements negotiated in 2011 is as the follows*:




Sectoral level


3+1 annex

Branch level


12+1 annex

State agencies



Company level

1289+270 annexes (1559)

1332+284 annexes (1616)

Companies with national significant



Notice: The data are from the Executive Agency General Labour Inspectorate

Generally 69 collective agreements were in force in 2011. In comparison with 2010 has decreased by two collective agreements in companies with national significant - in Bulgarian Railway Companies.

In 2011 were signed three Sectoral CA (construction, defense, mines) and 1 annex for extending the validity of CA in metal industry. At the branch level were signed 12 CA and 1 annex for extending the validity of CA in selection and reproduction in stock farming. Was signed Branch CA for the museums also.

In 2011 were extended two CAs - for mining and brewery industry.

In 2011 the bargaining coverage remains about 18% (the same as 2010), due to the extension of the collective agreement in the mine industry.

  • To what extent are there derogations from collective agreements? Describe any trends in terms of derogations.

In a number of sectoral/branch collective agreement of the real sector and the services have derogation clauses. There are two cases - the postponement of the implementation of agreed payments due to worsening economic and financial results or negotiate lower parameters laid down in sectoral/branch collective agreement for the same reasons. In the first case the derogation would apply to until the improvement of the economic and financial situation of the entity. The amounts remain owed to workers.

  • If there have been any major bipartite or tripartite initiatives at national level, please provide details. (Do not include initiatives which deal specifically with the economic situation as these should be covered in question 5).

There is one sectoral Framework Agreement between Ministry of Defense and Defense Union at CL Podkrepa and Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgarian Army at CITUB. It relates to the forthcoming structural changes that will affect employment. The both parties negotiated that the process of the reduction of staff will be made on the basis of clear criteria and rules and with participation of the trade unions.

  • Other conditions of employment (these might include training and skills, job security, occupational pensions, equal opportunities and diversity issues)

All conditions of employment (include training and skills, job security, occupational pensions, equal opportunities) are negotiated in collective agreements at all levels.

Information on developments in pay and working time in the course of 2011 is being collected in the Annual Updates on working time and pay, and therefore does not need to be reported here.

5. Responses to the economic situation (200 words)

With regard to the current economic situation, please give brief details of:

  • cross-sectoral and sectoral level initiatives, the responses of the social partners in your country, with a focus on any bipartite or tripartite initiatives to tackle any economic problems;

In 2009 the ILO adopted a Global Jobs Pact to which Bulgaria has joined.

In February 2011trade unions (CITUB and CL Podkrepa) suggested to the social partners and to the government their vision for recovery through growth and employment

At the end of 2011the employers' associations have also offered their suggestions for "Opportunities for recovery, economic growth, employment and catching up development of the Republic of Bulgaria".

The both – trade unions and employer’ associations stress on reduction of administrative and bureaucratic obstacles as a factor in improving business climate and promoting foreign investment, to reform the pension and health systems, education and training, activating the labour market.

  • government responses to the economic situation with an impact on industrial relations and on labour law;

At the beginning of 2011 the Government proposed a "Pact for financial stability" aimed to set rules for financial discipline. For the area of income policy it means frozen of the minimum wage, the salaries in the budget sector, social benefits and pensions. What is concerning employment – reductions and cut of the administrative staff.

The restrictive fiscal policy is confronted by the priorities to overcome poverty and alleviate the sharp social inequalities, which means that there are deep controversies between the aims and instruments of the policy itself. There is a clear trend of asymmetry between the economic and social dimension of the policy followed by the Bulgarian government.

Another measure of the government was increasing the retirement age without consultations with the social partners. It provoked the union protests and initial decision was changed - increasing the retirement age with 4 months by year, not as the first option - 1 year.

  • and any significant effects of the economic situation on the industrial relations system.

If initiatives have been reported in an earlier Annual Review, please provide an update.

6. Developments in working conditions (550 words)

Please report the most important developments in the field of working conditions and quality of work and employment during 2011 in your country. The following topics should be taken into consideration:

In 2011 the trend of decreasing security of employment and income due to the crisis continued. The General Labour Inspectorate (GLI-EA) report for the first half of 2011 registered sixfold increase of cases of working without a labour contract compared to 2010, as well as increase of wage arrears and breaches of working time, breaks and paid leave regulations.

Increased also fears about employment security in the public administration due to mass dismissals and planed introduction since 2012 of a package of reforms related to performance-related pay, new rules for employee appraisal, decreasing paid leave, decreasing compensation at retirement. The insecurity is due to the lack of transparency and information and consultation. BG1111011I

Few surveys registered also increased level of precarious work, including precariousness of employment for ethnic minorities and home workers (BG1104011I, BG1101021I) and undeclared work.

According to the survey Women working in precarious working conditions, most women feel fear and insecurity due to the high unemployment level and poor prospects for finding job in the official economy. 90% of women believe it will be ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find another job. However, the most alarming finding was that 51% of women were ready to work in the informal economy. BG1107011I

A Survey based on the composite index of ‘economy on light” of the employer association BICA also showed high and increasing levels of informal economy.

The gender pay gap increased to 18, 5% compared to about 15% in 2010 and is very high in some feminised sectors.

  • health and well-being of workers – including health problems, risk exposure, impact of changes in work organisation, and violence, harassment and discriminations;

According to 2010 National Working Conditions Survey (NWCS) some 87% of the respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with working conditions in their enterprises and 40% stated that their working conditions have improved, while only 6% think conditions have worsened.

Some 20% of employees work at high speed and 30% work to tight deadlines all the time or almost all the time. Functional flexibility and teamwork are widespread. 73.2% declared that their work involves rotating tasks and more than 90% that if necessary, they can get help from their colleagues or employer. The level of autonomy is not very high – in 76% of cases the employer assigns the tasks.

About 1/3 of the respondents have problems with their sight, back pain, headaches and muscle pains, and they attribute this to the nature of their work. 40% complain about stress, more than 60% - about general fatigue, and between 20–26% report problems with sleep, anxiety and frustration. BG1108011D

According to the National Social Security Institute (NCCI ) the number of work accidents is 2752 and decreases by 9% compared to 2010. Wholesale trade, health care, and government are the economic sectors with highest share of work accidents. Fatal accidents decreased from 94 in 2010 to 86 in 2011 (69 of which at the workplace).

The national representative survey under the project of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy ‘Equality as a Path to Progress Project’ revealed social inequalities and discrimination at the labour market. The most frequently cited grounds for disadvantage and discrimination are: disability (76%); age over 50 years (50%), Roma origin (58%), and different sexual orientation (51%).

  • developing skills and competences – including qualifications, skills and competences, career prospects and training opportunities

A Survey on motivation and attitudes related to professional qualification conducted in 2011 by the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) revealed a deficit of key competences, supply-demand mismatch, low motivation of employers and employees to organise and participate in training, despite increased requirements for higher qualification and higher demand for soft skills, e.g., communication, team working, problem solving and other competences.

In 2011 the National Employment Agency (NEA) continued to finance active labour market programmes aiming at increasing the skills and key competences of employed and unemployed persons (e.g., voucher training in the framework of the OPHRD).

  • work-life balance – including issues such as working time, time management at work and social infrastructures.

According to NWCS employees working under various forms of part-time work are very few (below 5%). Work during rest days is a worrisome trend from the point of view of work-life balance. About 44% of the respondents work one or more Saturdays of the month and 30% - regularly or sometimes work on Sundays. BG1108011D

The Study ‘Daily labour migration as a tool for labour market flexibility, security and effectiveness’ carried out in 2011 by the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research under the OPHRD project of CITUB show that more than 400000 people (12% of the economically active population) travel daily to other location to reach their workplace, nearly 2000 of them travel to neighbour countries. They spend about 500 000 hours on commuting. Over 100 000 travel over 45 minutes in one direction. While the territorial migration increases labour market flexibility and mobility, it also creates problems for health and work-life balance.

The issue of work-life balance is underestimated by the government, employers and employees.

According to the Labour Force survey additional module on work-life balance only 13% of the children fewer than 3 years and 75% of the 3-6 years old are covered by kindergartens. The study identified a number of barriers for balancing work and private life. About 68% combine care with work, but more than 90% of them did not have possibility for more flexible schedules. About 150 000 want to work but can not, due to the lack of care services or possibility for flexible working time.

NEA is carrying out two programmes for mothers who wish to go back to work ‘Back to work’ and ‘In support of motherhood.

7. Industrial action (200 words)

Please give brief details of strikes and other industrial action during 2011, including:

  • statistics on the number of strikes, workers involved and working days lost (absolute number and per 1,000 workers) for as much of 2011 as is available (please indicate briefly what types of action are or are not included in these figures – eg. are only strikes with a minimum number of workers or days lost included, or is only “official” action included?), and how this compares with previous years; and

In Bulgaria there are no official statistics on the number of strikes, workers involved and working days lost.

  • any particularly large or significant strikes/lockouts or other disputes;

The large strikes in 2011 were in Railway sector. On 10 March 2011 the railway workers mounted a one-hour warning strike BG 1103011I Workers were protesting at the terms of the World Bank loan for the stabilisation of Bulgarian railway companies. The loan is conditional on a 30% cut in labour costs which will lead to job cuts and wage freezes. As a result of the strike, a Memorandum of Understanding to develop the Bulgarian railway sector was agreed between the presidents of CITUB and Podkrepa CL and ministers of labour and transport.

For second time the Railway workers went on strike on November 24 BG 1111021I They protested over government plans for restructuring and job cuts.

The cost-cutting measures were in breach of a Memorandum of Understanding The strike lasted 26 days and losses from it are more than BGN 2 million (about EUR1 million). The strike ended with the signing of Collective Agreements.

There was lockout during the strike by the employer side, which is prohibited by the law. Were instituted legal proceedings against to the legality of the strike and against the strikers. Subsequently by signing the LAs those were canceled.

On 2 September the tobacco unions affiliated to the CITUB and CLPodkrepa organised a protest rally against the sale of tobacco holding Bulgartabak BG 1109011I The protested workers worried about their jobs and asked for the transaction to be stopped. Despite the protests, the privatisation contract has been signed.

On 30 November 2011, Bulgarian trade unions mobilised 35,000 members of the CITUB and CL Podkrepa to protest against government plans to increase the retirement age BG1112011 Trade Unions insisted that such painful reforms should only be undertaken after extensive discussion and a social consensus. After the protest, Parliament voted for increasing the retirement age with 4 months by year, not as the first option - 1 year.

8. Restructuring (250 words)

Please give brief details of major and significant incidences of company restructuring and workforce reductions in 2011 and how they were dealt with, especially where these led to important industrial disputes or collective agreements, or had other notable industrial relations implications.

The major case of restructuring was the case of the Bulgarian railways (BDZ) ERM Factsheet 19104 The planed staff reduction was 2000. The government restructuring plans are due to high company indebtedness and the conditions of agreed with the World Bank rescue package, which includes cutting the railways’ staff costs by 30 percent. The company proposed a plan for voluntary leaving providing for a lump sum equal to six monthly wages. In the process of the longest railway strike in late 2011 more than 1050 railway workers made use of this plan. However the restructuring process will continue in 2012 with the already announced privatisation of the freight transport service and the laying off of more than 1 600 employees. (BG1111021I, BG1103011I).

In 2011 the Bulgartabak holding was privatised without any significant redundancies, as the privatisation agreement contains obligations of the buyer to maintain average staff number at the 2010 level for three years. However due to the non transparent procedure and very fast privatisation, the unions of tobacco workers affiliated to CITUB and Podkrepa CL organised protest rally in September 2011. (BG1109011I)

In line with the announced Public administration structural reform in 2009 under which is planned 15% staff reduction in 2011 have been laid off about 4 000 public employees and civil servants (about 4% of the total). According to the financial minister since mid - 2009 the reduction of the staff is about 9000 (12% of the total).

9. Other relevant developments (150 words)

If there been any other significant developments affecting employment relations in 2011 that have not been mentioned above, please give brief details.

In early May 2011, the CITUB launched a national campaign to protect workers’ rights BG 1106011I The campaign aims to change legislation to guarantee labour and trade union rights and to inform workers and employees, and particularly young people, of their rights. During the campaign was organised National petition to protect fundamental rights, which was submitted to the National Assembly on 7 October - World Day for Decent Work. Petition was supported by 105,160 citizens.

Tatiana Mihailova and Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment