Unions in Bulgaria and Romania establish interregional council

An interregional council representing workers in Bulgaria and Romania has been created. Set up by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Romanian National Trade Union Confederation, it will now be open to other trade unions, employers’ groups and non-governmental organisations to join. The aim is to boost employment and to ensure free access to the labour markets of the two neighbouring countries through joint initiatives and measures.

Background

The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Romanian National Trade Union Confederation (Cartel Alfa) signed a bilateral agreement in the summer of 2012. The establishment of an interregional council for Bulgaria and Romania is a natural continuation of this cooperation between the two unions. The formation of the council was agreed on 25 February 2013 in the Bulgarian city of Ruse by CITUB Vice-President Plamen Nankov and Ion Homos, General Secretary of Cartel Alfa.

The two organisations discussed a package of international trade union services. These included help in the field of mutual legal assistance, as well as advice and targeted support for Bulgarians working in Romania and Romanians working in Bulgaria. The meeting focused on preparations for the establishment of an Interregional Trade Union Council (IRTUC).

Supporting employment

The idea is that this cross border trade union cooperation will help with:

  • the monitoring of the labour market in the border region of the two countries;
  • monitoring changes in the legal framework governing relations in the labour market in both countries;
  • discussions and suggestions for making adequate bilateral migration policy to avoid labour conflicts and promote mutually beneficial cross-border employment;
  • protection of labour, social security and the trade union rights of migrant workers and their families, in accordance with European and national legislation;
  • providing legal and trade union assistance in solving collective and individual labour disputes;
  • developing cross-border cooperation through joint development projects related to the labour market, and applying for European Regional Development Fund bilateral programmes for transborder cooperation;
  • the exchange of good practice developed in the labour market in both countries;
  • making decisions about information campaigns when there is significant change in the labour markets of either country, including those aimed at employers;
  • the establishment of information centres for cross-border workers in both countries.

According to Nankov, by uniting their efforts the two confederations can provide a much more efficient system for the employment of Bulgarian workers in Romania and Romanian workers in Bulgaria.Aims of the agreement

Among the main aims of the two unions are:

  • to improve conditions for the free movement of people between Bulgaria and Romania;
  • to open up the labour market in the two countries;
  • to provide active measures to prevent social dumping, and the trafficking of people using various forms of employment;
  • to protect labour, trade union and social security workers’ rights in the cross-border region and support the intercultural integration between both countries.

A Coordinating Committee will be created which will include seven representatives from the two unions. Within the next month leaders will be elected and the organisational structures of the IRTUC will be set up. In the future, membership of the group will be open to representatives of local authorities, employers and non-governmental organisations, and other unions invited to join.

Commentary

Cross-border cooperation between trade unions in the labour market is a new aspect of encouraging mobility between countries. Existing initiatives include mostly online exchanges, and projects connected to counselling centres and organisations belonging or close to the employers’ side.

These projects were set up under the Romania-Bulgaria Cross Border Cooperation Programme 2007–2013 co-financed by the European Union (EU) through the European Regional Development Fund.

The results show the particular features of employment mobility in Romania.

Romanian workers are generally paid between 20% and 25% more than in Bulgaria, and there are lower rates of unemployment in some border areas, such as Olt County where it is between 4% and 5%. This means that Bulgarian workers are much more likely to look for cross-border employment than Romanian workers.

There is no official information, but poorly qualified workers from Bulgaria are working in Romanian garment companies, in the construction industry and in the shipbuilding industry. Bulgarian teachers of foreign languages, with subjects like English and German, are seen as valued employees.

Meanwhile in Bulgaria, according to unofficial information, there are approximately 800 to 900 registered companies with Romanian owners or partners, and companies with entirely Romanian investments number about 300.

Romanian companies in Bulgaria are attracted by lower taxes. Corporate profit tax is 10%, and the 29% social security contributions are also lower, as is the overall tax burden. VAT in Bulgaria is 20%, while in Romania it is 24%.

Economic recovery has also been significantly slower and harder in Romania compared with Bulgaria. Romanian business people appreciate the opportunities offered by Bulgaria for business in terms of lower costs, and geographical proximity and access to new markets. But there are still concerns about the high risk factors in starting a business in a new and unfamiliar environment. That is why Romanian investments are generally limited, and as a group they are not listed within the top ten sources of foreign investment the country.

Lyuben Tomev, ISTUR

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