Bulgaria: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

​A new census of the membership of employer organisations and trade unions, slow progress on reforms and macroeconomic imbalances, and protests and strikes in the health and security sectors are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2016. 

Membership census 2016

In late January 2016, the latest official census began on the membership levels of employer representatives and trade unions that are involved in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. Through amendments to the Labour Code, Parliament adopted new, lower criteria (approved by the social partners) for social partners’ representativeness. Some additional labour-related changes, concerning social security contributions and justifications for terminating a labour contract, have been introduced.

Economic progress ‘slow’

In January 2016, the European Commission, under its mechanism for cooperation and verification (invoked by the European Commission when a new Member State fails to meet commitments undertaken as part of its accession negotiations), reported Bulgaria’s economic progress as ‘slow’ (PDF). Bulgaria is one of six Member States which, says the European Commission, are experiencing excessive macroeconomic imbalances. 

Doctors and police protest over reforms

Medical doctors and their co-workers, and policemen and prison guards are not permitted to strike. However, both groups of workers organised national protests against proposed reforms in their sector. Employees in the security sector began their protests in 2015. Police officers are objecting to reforms proposed by the Ministry of Interior that will limit some of their social benefits, including pensions and paid annual leave.

General practitioners, medical employees and doctors from private and state-owned hospitals organised protests against reforms proposed by the Ministry of Health. Their protest was supported by the Bulgarian Medical Association. The Constitutional Court has also rejected the Ministry's reforms.

Protests over tobacco producer's job cuts 

Employees of Bulgartabac – the Bulgarian largest tobacco producer – together with representatives of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (KNSB) organised a protest in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in the wake of announcements of job cuts in the company. Bulgartabac says 400 job cuts (about 8% of the workforce) will result from its decision to stop exports to the Middle East from April 1. After consultations, the KNSB said in a formal statement that the management did not present convincing evidence for the proposed job losses (PDF).  

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