Bulgaria: Latest working life developments – Q1 2018

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The new collective agreement in the brewing industry, increased wages for prison officers, and an international conference on digital society and the future of work are the main topics of this article. This country update reports on the latest developments of working life in Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2018.

New collective agreement in brewery industry

At the end of January 2018, the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria and the branch unions affiliated to the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour (CL Podkrepa) signed a new two-year collective agreement covering 2075 employees, representing around 95% of all employees in the brewery industry.

According to the 2018 collective agreement in the brewery industry (PDF), minimum wage and salary levels by staff category are bounded by the annually agreed thresholds for minimum insurance income. Staff pay is also dependent on the economic performance of the companies. According to Ivana Radomirova, executive director of the Union of Brewers, there is traditionally a high level of social dialogue in the brewery industry. Three multinational companies (Carlsberg Group, Heineken and Molson Coors) have subsidiaries in Bulgaria and set a good example of human resource management and corporate social responsibility. In 2017, the average monthly wage in the brewery industry was BGN 1,452 (€742 at 23 May 2018), compared with a national average monthly wage of BGN 1,060 (€542). The new agreement provides better working conditions than the Labour Code’s minimum requirements – for example, in terms of remuneration, working hours and rest periods, leave, and benefits.

Pay rise for prison officers after protests

The government has agreed to pay out around BGN 15 million (€7.7 million) in wage increases for employees in the Directorates General for ‘Execution of Sanctions’ and ‘Security’ at the Ministry of Justice. It adopted the decision on 21 March 2018 following a series of protests by prison officers across the country. According to Ivailo Grigorov, Chairman of the Trade Union of Employees in Prisons in Bulgaria, prison officers were dissatisfied with their working conditions, low pay and labour shortages (around 200 vacancies are currently unfilled).

Prison officers called for a 20% pay increase, motivated by the wage difference between prison officers and police officers, which amounts to around BGN 200 (€102). The rate of increase will be confirmed after budget estimates have been carried out and a phased payment schedule has been prepared. In total, BGN 6 million (€3.06 million) will be provided to improve specific working conditions, while the rest of the sum will be allocated to increase the wage levels of prison officers in line with officers in similar positions at the Ministry of the Interior. Trade unions will determine how the remaining money is allocated. The main recipients of the handouts will be prison guards, courtroom guards and line officers.

Social partners and experts discuss future of work

The challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid, technology-driven transformation of the world of work was the topic of discussion at a high-level conference on ‘The Future of Work’. The event, organised in the context of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, took place in Sofia on 21–22 March 2018.

In a video message, Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, explained how new technologies and robots result in growth and job creation. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, stated that the transformation brings both positive change and risks. In recent years, 2 million jobs have been created in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector; nevertheless, there is currently a need for 350,000 more ICT specialists in Europe, with the shortage expected to increase to 500,000 in the next few years.

Thiébaut Weber, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and Rebekah Smith, Deputy Director for Social Affairs at BusinessEurope, participated in a conference session on ‘The future of work and demographic challenges’. Topics discussed in the session included: new knowledge and skills needed in the workplace of the future; challenges related to the ageing of the workforce; incentives to extend working lives; and boosting of knowledge and skills transfer among generations.

Commentary

Over the last two years, social dialogue has deteriorated. This has affected negotiations between unions and employers on the establishment of explicit mechanisms to set the national minimum wage, as well as branch-level and sectoral collective bargaining processes. The digital society and the future of work will continue to be a subject of much debate throughout the Bulgarian Presidency.

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