Bulgaria: Recognition of nationally representative employer organisations and trade unions for 2016–2020

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The requirements for trade unions and employers’ organisations to claim representativeness have been amended to make eligibility easier to achieve. Using the new criteria, the Council of Ministers formally recognised five employer organisations and two trade unions as nationally representative in a decision announced on 10 August 2016.

Council decision on representative employer organisations and trade unions

A decision by the Council of Ministers of 10 August 2016, based on a census on the representativeness of the social partners in Bulgaria, formally recognised five nationally representative employer organisations and two trade unions. These are:

  • Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (BICA);
  • Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA);
  • Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB);
  • Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI);
  • Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE);
  • Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB);
  • Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa).

Rules amended

The requirements for representativeness have been reduced since the last census. Labour legislation introduced in 2012 stipulated that, to be recognised as nationally representative of employees, workers’ organisations must have at least 75,000 members. This has now been reduced to 50,000 members.

For employer organisations, the requirements were that their members should have a total of no fewer than 100,000 employees on employment contracts. This has been amended to no fewer than 1,500 companies with a combined total of no less than 50,000 employees.

Four years ago, there was conflict about the requirements for employer organisations. Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court ruled that two of the criteria introduced in the 2012 legislation to be unconstitutional: the number of employees; and a provision determining the activities an employer’s organisation could legally pursue. This last provision had the effect of excluding BCCI from representativeness, although the court ruling meant that it could claim representativeness as an employer organisation.

Criteria for representativeness

The Labour Code  was last amended in July 2016. It provides that organisations of workers and employers may request recognition as representative at national level from the Council of Ministers for a four-year period.

A representative trade union needs to meet the following requirements (Article 34, Labour Code).

  • It has at least 50,000 members.
  • Its members are at least 50 organisations with not less than five members in each economic activity as defined by the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE) and approved by the National Statistical Institute (NSI).
  • It has local branches in more than a quarter of municipalities in the country and a national governing body.
  • It has a legal personality acquired at least three years before the application for recognition of representativeness.

A representative employer organisation needs to meet the following requirements (Article 35, Labour Code).

  • It must be able produce documentation proving that it has at least 1,500 member companies with a combined total of no less than 50,000 workers.
  • Its members are employer organisations representing more than a quarter of activities as defined by NACE and approved by NSI, with no less than 5% of employees in each economic activity, or a minimum of 10 employer members in each activity;.
  • It has employer members in more than a quarter of all Bulgaria’s municipalities and a national managing body.
  • It has a legal personality acquired at least three years before the application for recognition of representativeness.

Applying for representativeness status

The start of a procedure for the recognition of representativeness of applicant organisations is announced by the President of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation six months before the expiry date of the previous four-year period. Within four months of that announcement in the Government Gazette, organisations of workers and employers must submit their requests for recognition. The Council of Ministers announces its decision within two months of receipt of the application. A refusal of recognition is communicated to the organisation concerned within seven days of the Council of Ministers’ decision and the organisation can appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. For branch level unions and employer organisations, representativeness stems from membership of a national level representative organisation.

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