Bulgaria: Industrial relations in central public administration – Recent trends and features

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Collective bargaining,
  • Participation at work,
  • Pay and income,
  • Working conditions,
  • Industrial relations,
  • Published on: 29 June 2014

Tatyana Mihailova, Nadezhda Daskalova

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Since the start of transition (1990), creating a modern and efficient public administration has been considered as a priority by all successive Bulgarian governments. CPA has undergone extensive changes as a result of public administration reform. Most reforms and austerity measures in the context of fiscal consolidation have been imposed by the central government, rather than negotiated with the social partners. Industrial relations in the central administration are underdeveloped , only institutionalised in a few ministries and state agencies, where councils for social partnership are set up. Public servants are denied the rights to strike and to collective bargaining. Collective agreements are negotiated only for employees under labour contract. There are no employer associations in the sector.

1. CPA definition and restructuring

A definition of Central Public Administration (CPA) is: “Central government departments or ministries, which carry out planning, management and coordination functions, rather than public-service delivery functions.”

1.1 What, in the definition set out above, does not fit in your country experience?

There is not commonly agreed definition of CPA. Comparing to the proposed definition for this CAR, the Bulgarian legislation mentions just the composition of the CPA, which is broader.

According to the Law on Administration (Art. 37) the CPA:

  • Administration of the Council of Ministers (CoM)
  • Ministries
  • Government agencies
  • Administration of the state commissions
  • Executive Agencies
  • Administrative structures established by law
  • Administrative structures established by a decree of the CoM
  • District administration

There are 15 ministries and the administration of the CoM, which fit to the definition used in this CAR.

1.2 What were the main structural reforms to CPA in the last 10 years (for example downsizing, devolution to state or local government, privatization, deconcentration)? Briefly describe each one of them.

The reform of the state administration started some time before Bulgaria's accession to the EU with the strong support of the European Commission. The Bulgarian government adopted and improved the key legal acts on the structure and functions of the administration in line with the Strategy for Modernisation of the State Administration. Nevertheless, the pace of the reforms is slow, delays and an implementation gap are observed.

The main structural reforms are as follows:

  • Downsizing (Optimisation)

After years of a steady increase in public employment, in the last years the reductions in public administration employment and the modernization of the administrative structure are among the main stated priorities of the administrative reform. The government adopted Plan for optimisation of the public administration 2009-2012 containing 572 measures in 3 directions: optimisation of functions; improvement of effectiveness of the administrative structures and removal and easing of services. The ministries reported reduction of personnel in the margins between 4 to 22%, mergers and closure of some administrative structures.

In the last years there is a trend of reducing the number of public administration units and staff in the CPA due to reforms aiming to restructure public administration and improve its functioning. The austerity measures aiming to reduce public spending in order to maintain fiscal stability have also had a significant impact. The creation of new administrations, the restructuring of existing ones, the closing down of ineffective structures and units, their optimisation, as well as their organisational development are aimed at achieving a better organised and more effective administration. In the last three years only the staff reduction raised by more than 14%.

  • Deconcentration

Territorial units of the central executive power, which are deconcentrated units of the ministries, were established as a part of the central administration. Their number increased very fast and they accounted for more than 50% of the employment in CPA. In the last years the main challenge in respect to the CPA deconcentrated units is the reduction of the number of these units and the creation of concentrated units for the separate policies, i. e., one structure per ministry instead of the existing many structures. A good example in this respect is the amalgamation of the two territorial structures of the Ministry of Health in Regional health inspection in 2010.

  • Devolution of powers from central to local government (decentralisation)

The distribution of responsibilities, rights and resources between the central, regional and municipal level of government is linked to the process of optimisation of the administrative structures. The new strategic approach set out in the Decentralisation Strategy2006-2015 relates to three forms of decentralization – administrative, political and financial. The main activities that are decentralised at territorial level are in education, health care, water management, social and administrative services, taxes.

The concept for decentralization is based not only on the traditional understanding of the process as a transfer of power and resources from the national to the local level, but also on the understanding of the necessity to decentralize certain state functions—functional decentralization—the establishment of specialized central autonomous administrative structures. Examples of functional decentralization are the National Health Insurance Fund, the National Insurance Institute, and the National Radio and TV council, the State Commission for Energy Regulation, the State Commission on Stock exchange and marketplaces, etc.

  • Outsourcing of functions of administration to the business

Assigning individual activities to the private sector, such as construction and maintenance of information systems, cleaning, waste collection, etc..

  • Public private partnership

Till now has been established only the institution of private bailiff (private enforcement agent).

2. Austerity measures since 2008

2.1 Since 2008, were new pay and working hours policies negotiated by the social partners or unilaterally imposed (through, for example, a new law and/or a financial bailout package)?

The main reforms that affected the pay and working time of CPA workers (both civil servants and employees under labour contract) were introduced in mid 2012 after prolonged and conflicting discussions between social partners and the government in 2011. They include new classifier of positions, new performance related pay and new rules for appraisal of results, which replace the traditional civil service system of automatic salary increases based on length of service with financial rewards for good performance. BG1111011I

There are also some changes related to flexibilisation of working time – 8 working hours within flexible margins between 7, 30 a.m to 18, 30 p.m. with an obligatory working time from 10 a.m to 16, 00 p.m.

The additional paid leave of civil servants for working out of the regular working time (12 days) was reduced to 5 days as it is for employees on labour contract in the CPA.

2.2 What were the key agreements or laws through which the changes were negotiated or imposed?

The changes were imposed through the Law for civil servants (last amendments in 2012), Labour code and a series of Regulations BG1111011I

2.3 Were these changes in line with analogous reform processes in the public sector in general and in the private sector? Please discuss the similarities and differences.

The proposed changes aimed at making the wage formation and working time more flexible and closer to those in the private sector and to those of the employed under labour legislation in the CPA. These concern paid leave and new performance related pay and new rules for appraisal of results comparable to that in the private sector.

2.4 In case there were processes of restructuring in CPA, were these negotiated or imposed?

The reforms in CPA are not negotiated with the social partners at national level and with the trade unions in the state administration. They are only consulted in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. While supporting the need for public administration reforms, the trade unions have complained about not being involved in the elaboration of the new payment system, making it impossible for them to express their views and pursue the interests of their members.

2.5 What types of reforms/ changes have taken place since 2008 concerning:

  • Pension cuts

The pensions were frozen until April 2013.

  • Changes in retirement age entitlement

The government breached the Agreement on pension reform agreed with the social partners in 2010 and accelerated the pension reform. Since the beginning of 2012 (instead of 2021 as it was previously agreed), the retirement age and the required insurance period have started to increase gradually by 4 months in the beginning of every calendar year until reaching the age of 65 for men and 63 for women and 40 years of insurance period for man and 37 years for women.

More stringent rules for early retirement were also adopted. In Bulgaria, early retirement is not an option for general employees. It is only possible for:

  • persons working in the first and second categories of labour (i.e. in hazardous or physically strenuous jobs),
  • military and police officers, and
  • teachers.

From 2012 on, the retirement age for the first category will start to increase by 4 months per year, reaching 48 years for women and 53 years for men, and 53 years for women and 58 years for men in ІІ category, i.e. increase by one year by 2014.

The policemen and employees in security and the military will be entitled to pensions after 27 years of employment (2/3 of which in military or security), not after 25 years as it was until the end of 2011 (no requirements for age). From 2012 onwards, the required insurance period for teachers was increased by four months every year until reaching 33 years for men and 28 years for women.

An important amendment to the Labour Code was adopted in 2012, stimulating a longer employment of older employees - the employer may not terminate at its discrepancy the employment, based on the fact that the employee has become entitled to retirement.

3. Industrial relations reforms

3.1 Are there formal industrial relations processes in the CPA, such as collective bargaining between trade union and management representatives or information and consultation via works councils? Do these apply equally to employees with diverging employment status (such as civil servants and others)?

Industrial relations in the CPA are not well developed, especially in the ministries. Main issues related to legislation and administrative reform, including pay are discussed in the National Council for tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) comprising representatives of the government and the nationally representative trade unions and employers organisations.

In the CPA work employees and civil servants, who have different legal status. ‘Employees’ employment relations are regulated by the Labour Code, while those of ‘civil servants’ - by the Civil Servants Act. A third group comprises the police, jailers and the military, which are employed under special acts.

Despite enjoying the right to organise and form trade union organsations, the civil servants do not have right to collective bargaining and right to effective strike (just symbolic). The role of trade unions is limited. According to art. 44 (3) trade unions represent and defend the interests of civil servants before the government bodies on matters of civil service and social security relations through proposals, requests and participation in the preparation of draft by-laws and regulations that apply to the civil service relationship.

Collective bargaining relates just to employees under the labour contract.

Industrial relations in the central public administration (as it is defined in this CAR) are institutionalised in three ministries - Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice. There are councils for social partnership involving representatives of the trade unions and ministries, which carried out negotiations and signed collective agreements for employees and agreements for civil servants (recently introduced as a new practice, see point 3.2).

In Bulgaria there are not works councils, but there is a system for information and consultation of employees. The civil servants do not have are the right to information and consultation. The information and consultation is realised in councils for social cooperation and is provided in the agreements for civil servants as far as they exist.

3.2 Has there been a change since 2008 in the structure of collective bargaining, such as a break-up of centralized bargaining arrangements (decentralization), the creation of sector-specific arrangements within CPA (sectoralization), or the convergence of CPA industrial relations arrangements on the private sector or broader public sector? If not, did this change occur earlier?

There haven’t been changes in the structure of genuine (for employees) collective bargaining since 2008. However there is a decentralisation trend, as most of the collective agreement and agreements for civil servants have been negotiated in the CPA agencies.

The Agreement for civil service and social security relations for civil servants that is attached to the collective agreements represents a new good practice since 2011. The lack of imperative regulation in the Civil Servants Act giving collective bargaining rights to civil servants has been interpreted by individual employers as a prohibition. Nevertheless there are 7 Agreements with employers in state agencies that concern civil servants. Those are result of the goodwill of the individual employers, as well as of trade union pressure and activity.

We can also speak of a kind of sectoralisation as there is not a common collective agreement for the CPA but rather separate collective agreements for individual administrations (ministries and agencies).

3.3 Is there a collective agreement in place for CPA? If yes, which were the main topics discussed or negotiated since 2008?

As stated above there are few collective agreements in the CPA.

Typical for collective bargaining in times of crisis is the intention to preserve the provisions agreed in the previous periods. New elements in the content relate to the rules for determining wages and protecting union members from layoffs. In the procedures and the subject of negotiations there are no changes. However the provisions related to participation of the trade unions in commissions - for remunerations, for selection of the staff, for performance appraisal, etc. have been upgraded.

The main topics negotiated in CA are: employment, health and safety, working time, training and retraining, vacations and holidays, social security and compensations, conditions for trade union activities, social benefits.

In the Agreement for civil servants in Ministry of Defence (without the military) are negotiated the same benefits as for the employees – additional paid leave, transport, and additional days to compensate for overtime. In the commissions for the appointment and for attestation of the civil servants participate trade union representatives.

In the Agreement for civil servants including policemen and jailers are negotiated provisions for social dialogue and for trade union activities. The trade union representatives are involved in the process of the development of normative and internal regulations concerning labour and social rights of civil servants.

3.4 For those topics not covered by collective bargaining agreements, how are they determined?

In collective agreements all issues related to labour and social security relations concerning the employees on labour contracts are negotiated, with the exception of pay and work organisation. The wages are not a bargaining issue because they are determined centrally.

All issues which are not covered by agreements are discussed in the Councils for Social Cooperation.

4. Social Partners

4.1 From the list of social partners set out in Annex 1 for your country, have there been any changes since 2010?

Table 1


Trade unions (2010)

Trade unions – no longer involved (please tick)

Employers organisations


National level

CITUB - Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria


National level


Minister of Defence

Minister for Internal Affairs

Commissar General - Chief Directorate for Prisons at Ministry of Justice

Executive Director - State Company ‘Prison Affairs Fund

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister of Internal Affairs

Commissar General - Chief Directorate for Prisons at Ministry of Justice

Commissar General - Chief Directorate for Prisons at Ministry of Justice

CL Podkrepa -Confederation of Labour Podkrepa


At sector/branch level

1. FITUB - Federation of Independent Trade Unions in the Bulgarian Army (CITUB)

2. UD - Union ‘Defence’ (CL Podkrepa)


1. FTU-HS Federation of Trade Unions in the Health Service (at CITUB)*

3. FITUGO - Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Governmental Organisations – (CITUB)

4. NTUCAMI - National Trade Union for Civil Administration in Ministry of Interior at FITUGO

2. PK Admin Union of Administrative Employees (at (CL Podkrepa)*


5. ANPUB - Association ‘National Police Union in Bulgaria’ (NPU - National Police Union – previous name)


6. TUFEMI - Trade Union Federation of the Employed in Ministry of Interior


7. ACSMI - Association of the Civil Servants in Ministry of Interior


8. TUASMI - Trade Union Alliance ‘Security’ in Ministry of Interior


9. NUFR -National Union of Fire-fighters and the Rescuers "Ogneborets"


10. TUEPDL - Trade Union of Employees in the Places of Deprivation of Liberty at FITUGO


11. TUPSB - Trade Union of Prison Staff in Bulgaria


* These federations do not have structures in CPA (ministries as it is considered by this CAR). However they participate in collective bargaining in central public administration agencies and other units.

4.2 Is there competition among trade unions or employer representatives?

There is competition and even confrontation among the police trade unions. Striving to be recognised as a party to collective agreement they use unfair practices to attract members from other unions.

4.3 Since 2008, have there been any mergers or de-mergers of trade unions or employers’ organisations?

There haven’t been any mergers or de-mergers of the unions, but appeared new ones – three policemen trade unions and the Union of Jailers.

4.4 Have trade unions taken any specific responses to austerity policies, such as industrial action, coalitions with trade unions form other sectors, civil society, cross-border trade union alliances, intensified cooperation with management? If yes, please give details.

The crisis impacted the remuneration of the employees and civil servants in the CPA as the subsidies for ministries were frozen. There is also a staff reduction at about 14%.

Poor working conditions and low remuneration caused several protests of the police unions in the period 2008 – 2012. The first one was organised through the Internet forum and later was set up TUFEMI. This trade union proposed to other trade unions to set up a Consultative Council for all trade unions in the sector ‘Security’. The reason was that unions of civil servants have no right to join national representative trade union confederations, thus no having right to participate in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. The Council was set up on October 2011.

The lack of comprehensive dialogue on pay reforms in the CPA and the unilateral decisions imposed by the government forced both trade union confederations to walk out the NCTC.

The other conflict point was the decision of the government to change the pension system without social dialogue (November 2011). On 30 November 2011, the Bulgarian trade unions mobilised 35,000 members of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa) to protest against government plans to increase the retirement age. In the protest participated also police trade unions and civil servants. (BG1112011I).

4.5 Have employers’ organisations taken any specific responses to austerity policies, such as, coalitions with trade unions, coordination with employers in other sectors or countries, EU social dialogue committee? If yes, please give details.

There are no employer associations in the central administration.

4.6 What are the views of the social partners vis-à-vis the impact of austerity measures on the industrial relations in CPA? What, in their opinion, will be the most important issues for the sectors’ industrial relations in the near future?

According to interviewed trade union leaders the most significant achievement of industrial relations in time of crisis and austerity is the establishment of councils for social cooperation in the sector ‘Security’ and signing of series of agreements. These developments supported the capacity building of trade unions and the promotion of the social dialogue. The trade union leaders consider that the main motivation behind the joining trade union is the new system for remuneration in the CPA as the participation of trade union representatives in the commissions for the attestation will prevent the possible subjectivity of the assessment.

The future of industrial relations they see in strengthening the social dialogue structures and maintaining and upgrading the achieved provisions related to wages, social benefits, health and safety, working time. The interviewed trade union leaders suggested legislative changes related to the protection of trade union leaders in the CPA against prosecution and unfair dismissals and new regulation about legitimacy of agreements for civil servants.

5. Commentary

The financial crisis and implementation of austerity measures strongly affect the CPA. It is expected that the on going fiscal consolidation policies will lead to further reductions in staffing levels and in remuneration in the CPA. Relations between the government and trade unions have been deteriorating rapidly in the last years due to the government’s unilateral approach and the breaches of signed agreements with social partners. The system of collective bargaining in the CPA is complicated as it includes employees and civil servants with different rights concerning collective bargaining. The civil servants do not have the right to collective bargaining or to strike. However, the recent trend of enlarging social dialogue and signing agreements for civil servants on civil service and social security relations is promising.

Tatyana Mihailova, Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

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