Bulgaria: latest working life developments Q2 2018

The launch of an alliance to combat wage inequality, the election of a new leader for one of the country’s main employers’ associations and talks on the European Pillar of Social Rights are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Bulgaria in the second quarter of 2018.

New alliance launched to combat wage inequality

At a conference in Sofia on 26 June 2018, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) launched its initiative, ‘European Alliance for Upward Wage Convergence’. In his opening speech, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini highlighted that unjustifiably large wage inequalities between Member States demotivate the labour force in less-developed countries, cause ‘brain drain’, undermine the impact of investments on cohesion and ultimately provoke a crisis of confidence in the EU. Mr Visentini proposed the creation of an Alliance involving the European Commission, national governments, European and national social partners, and employers’ representatives from national and multinational companies.

Thérèse de Liedekerke, Deputy Director General of BusinessEurope, Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary of the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP), and Véronique Willems, General Secretary of the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME), made statements which supported upward wage convergence in principle, while expressing doubt about the Alliance’s proposed tools and actions, and the stakeholders’ authority to influence wages. Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), strongly supported the Alliance.

The Bulgarian trade union leaders hosting the Conference – Plamen Dimitrov (CITUB) and Dimitar Manolov (CL Podkrepa) – emphasised that protectionism may lead to negative consequences and mistrust. They felt that the Alliance was not about determining wages and salaries; on the contrary, it should provide a framework and an environment for fostering the idea of upward convergence.

Unions sign agreement to protect workers

Prior to the launch of the conference, CITUB and Belgian trade union the General Federation of Belgian Labour (FGTB/ABVV) signed a Solidarity Agreement designed to protect the labour rights of almost 100,000 Bulgarians working in Belgium. According to the Agreement, each member of a Bulgarian trade union (who has paid a membership fee for at least one year) can take advantage of the services and protection of FGTB/ABVV.

BIA elects new Executive President

On 19 June 2018, the Managing Board of the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) elected Radosvet Radev, Managing Director of Darik Radio Plc, as its Executive President. In a welcome message to the newly elected president, the leaders of the two nationally representative trade unions, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa), expressed their hopes to achieve successful social dialogue together.

Spotlight on the European Pillar of Social Rights

A high-level tripartite conference on ‘Тhe European Pillar of Social Rights: Working Together to Deliver’ was held in Sofia on 27 June 2018. This was the last major social forum to take place during the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union. The conference was attended by ministers, employers and trade union representatives from all Member States, European social partners, and representatives of European institutions and non-government organisations.

Discussions focused on the future of the European Cohesion Policy and the European Social Fund. Policies imposed by the European Pillar of Social Rights also came under review, and other topics included financial resources dedicated to the implementation of the Pillar and the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

According to Commissioner Thyssen, fulfilling the Pillar’s principles and rights is a joint responsibility of the European Commission, Member States, social partners and civil society. Biser Petkov, Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, saw the adoption of both the ‘Work-Life Balance’ and ‘Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions’ Directives, as well as the revision of the regulation on the coordination of social security systems, as major steps towards the safeguarding of workers' rights, contributing to a more social Europe. According to Plamen Dimitrov, President of CITUB, the International Labour Organization principle of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ must be incorporated in the Bulgarian plan for implementing the Pillar. He also stated that better monitoring during the European Semester can be achieved by extending the list of social scoreboard indicators covering all 20 Pillar principles.

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