Cooperation agreement signed between trade unions and labour inspectorate

On 7 October 2009, on the occasion of the World Day for Decent Work, representatives of the trade union confederations, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the General Labour Inspectorate (GLI-EA) discussed at a meeting the new realities posed by the economic crisis. In light of a growing informal economy and continuing violations of labour law, the trade unions and GLI-EA signed a cooperation agreement seeking to better protect, enhance and enforce workers’ rights.

Social partner meeting leads to cooperation agreement

The Bulgarian trade union confederations organised a number of events throughout the country in support of the World Day for Decent Work organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Part of the events in Bulgaria was a national working meeting with the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Totyo Mladenov, and the Executive Director of the General Labour Inspectorate Executive Agency (Изпълнителна Агенция-Главна инспекция по труда, GLI-EA), Roumyana Michailova. Trade union representatives expressed serious concerns about the new realities posed by the economic crisis in the country. They placed particular emphasis on an increasing number of cases of wage arrears and non-payment of overtime by employers. Further, they highlighted the continuing and intensifying violations of labour law and social security legislation, in addition to the threat of positive results that have been achieved in actions against the informal economy being reversed (BG0307101F, BG0607069I, BG0711039I, BG0809039I; see also Bulgarian case studies on tackling undeclared work).

Minister Mladenov stated that the responsibility for decent work must be borne by all, including the executive and legislative powers, as well as the social partners. He added that, in times of crisis, the enhanced role of the GLI-EA and the partnership with the trade unions will guarantee the observation of basic labour rights at the workplace. The minister also informed the meeting’s participants that, due to GLI-EA’s stricter controls during only one month, employers have paid arrears in wages and social security contributions amounting to about BGN 7 million (€3.58 million as at 14 November 2009).

At the end of the meeting, the President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (Конфедерация на независимите синдикати в България, CITUB), Zheliazko Hristov, the President of the Confederation of Labour ‘Podkrepa’ (Конфедерация на труда ‘Подкрепа’, CL Podkrepa), Konstantin Trenchev, and Executive Director Michailova of GLI-ЕА signed a Cooperation agreement (in Bulgarian) for the protection of workers’ rights in times of crisis. Minister Mladenov will act as the guarantor of the agreement.

Main provisions of agreement

The agreement aims to strengthen the joint efforts for combating labour right violations. It also seeks to increase monitoring activities regarding the implementation of labour law, health and safety legislation, collective agreements and mass redundancies. The main provisions of the cooperation agreement cover the following aspects:

  • a commitment to further improve social dialogue and support the activities of the tripartite social dialogue bodies dealing with health and safety at work. The parties will coordinate their efforts for both developing the tripartite National Council for Labour Inspection and improving the branch and territorial working conditions councils’ activities;
  • improving the communication with trade unions about GLI inspection results, labour right violations found and measures undertaken;
  • establishing joint expert teams and mobile monitoring groups, particularly in cases of mass redundancies, as well as in relation to the implementation of employment programmes and large infrastructure projects, such as energy provision, and road construction and rehabilitation;
  • trade union participation in GLI-EA inspections and campaigns, as well as in investigations on workplace accidents;
  • promoting the warning function of trade unions regarding violations of labour rights as stipulated by the Labour Code;
  • implementing joint national, sectoral and regional activities, such as conferences, workshops and campaigns for labour right protection;
  • disseminating good practices in labour law implementation through the regional structures of the trade union confederations and the GLI-EA territorial branches;
  • promoting collective bargaining, including the observation of collective agreements by employers, quarterly information of the company and branch collective agreements registered by GLI-EA, and establishment of a national information system for collecting data, monitoring and analysing collective agreements at all levels.

Commentary

The cooperation agreement is considered to be part of the renewal and strengthening of social dialogue with the new government in power since August 2009 (BG0907039I). It also represents a new stage in the quality of the cooperation between GLI-EA and the trade union confederations after the signing of the Declaration for cooperation in 2003. The agreement is in line with the proposals of the trade union confederations concerning the required anti-crisis measures (BG0812039I) seeking to protect employment and workers’ rights, which are under threat in times of crisis.

Nadezhda Daskalova, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)

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