Brewery sector collective agreement renewed

Social partners in Bulgaria have concluded a new collective agreement for the brewery sector, valid until 2015. Despite the economic crisis, the social partners have agreed to increase the minimum wage, introduce measures to improve work–life balance and to improve training. The collective agreement will be extended to all companies in the brewery sector. The practice of extension dates back to 2010–2011, when four branch collective agreements were extended for the first time.

Background

Collective agreements are legally binding documents, and since 2003 the Labour Code has made it possible for them to be extended by ministerial decree. In 2010, four branch collective agreements were extended for the first time to wood and furniture, water supply, brewing and the paper and pulp industry, although the extension of the wood and furniture agreement was later withdrawn because of procedural errors. The first agreement to be extended was for the brewery industry, and it was extended a second time in 2011 after the signing of the new sectoral collective agreement.

In October 2013, by decree of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Hassan Ademov, the branch collective agreement was extended for a third time to all 12 companies in the sector. The parties who signed the agreement were: for the employers, the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria (UBB), and for the unions, the National Federation for the Food and Beverage Industry (affiliated to Podkrepa CL) and the Trade Union of Brewers, Foods and Beverages (affiliated to CITUB).

The sectoral agreement affects the entire brewery industry in Bulgaria. Regardless of the type and size of the enterprise, whether micro, small, medium or multinational, all employers must comply with good employment practices and high working standards. The extension of the collective agreement to the entire brewery sector should lead to more favourable working conditions, better wages, greater leave entitlement, initiatives to improve the skills of employees and improvement in employment policy overall. The brewery sector is significant in terms of youth employment, since National Statistical Institute data show that 46% of employees in this sector are under the age of 34.

Social dialogue and collective bargaining

In July 2005, the social partners in the brewery industry signed the Charter on Ethical Standards (BG0509201N). The Charter was an important step towards the introduction of corporate social responsibility principles in the sector.

In 2013, the social partners signed a memorandum agreeing to cooperate on the corporate social responsibility policy. It applies to all companies in the sector, establishing common rules and internal standards. In the memorandum, the social partners have joined forces to accomplish significant social projects, the details of which are contained in the collective agreement.

The collective agreement is the first in which the social partners have agreed on particular provisions for balancing professional and family life. The agreement outlines a number of measures, such as longer maternity leave, flexible working time, training courses for women returning to work after maternity leave and other benefits.

The ‘Competition on Ideas’ initiative aims to encourage workers to be proactive, increase their motivation and loyalty and their identification with company policies, and will enable them to submit proposals on the finance and economic state of the enterprise, work organisation issues, training issues and methods of production and technologies.

Higher pay agreed

Since 2003, collective bargaining at sectoral and at branch level has been extended to include annual negotiations on minimum social security thresholds. In the brewery sector, this affects collectively agreed minimum wages and provides yearly wage increases.

Overtime payments have been increased, payment for night work has been increased five-fold and payment for working at Christmas and Easter has increased 125%. Additional payments on retirement depend on length of service, but they are considerably higher than the legal minimum.

The collective agreement also allows employers to set up long-term plans for the selection, training and assessment of professional staff, according to the needs and development of the enterprise.

Commentary

Despite the negative impact of the economic crisis in the last few years, which has led to a decrease in the volume of production, sales and consumption of beer, enterprises have successfully coped with these problems by designing a sustainable policy to preserve jobs, promote decent work and career development for employees, and to observe the principle of lifelong learning. One of the reasons for this success is the well-established social dialogue in the sector, which encourages mutual cooperation and a responsible approach to collective bargaining.

Tatiana Mihaylova, ISTUR

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