Bulgarian inquiry panel reports widespread attacks on private and public sector workers

Six workers presented testimony to the first global panel of inquiry into attacks on workers’ rights in Sofia, Bulgaria. The ITUC’s first hearing took place in a country which lost over half a million jobs during the recession and has a minimum wage below that of urban China.

“As Bulgaria grapples with economic and social policies to tackle unemployment, there is growing evidence workers’ rights are coming under increasing attack as the government uses the veil of the economic crisis to undermine labour rights,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.

Bulgaria needs to create 600,000 jobs and has 100,000 young people entering the labour market in the next five years.

Maria Helena Andre, member of the Global Panel of Inquiry and former Portuguese Minister of Labour, said in her concluding remarks that what is most worrying is the attacks on workers in both the private and public sectors.

“Bulgaria has a reputation of being the most flexible country in Europe for labour markets. This is not flexibility, this is the law of jungle when it comes to workers’ rights,” said Maria Helena Andre.
Labour rights under attack presented to the panel include:

- right to a legal strike, without unlawful dismissal or intimidation in a publicly owned state company;
- right to form a trade union and freedom of association;
- right to collectively bargain for public sector workers, with abuses by management of bonuses and performance-related pay

“There were many cases shared with us, but it seems to me that the fear is back. It is an emotion that should not be typical for the democratic country. We have strong powers against us. We have to be organised; we have to fight together. We can succeed in fighting them as human beings because their well-being depends on us – on the ordinary people,” said Dr Konstantin Trenchev President, Confederation of Labour Podkrepa.

“We have handed over 100,000 signatures from all over the country to the Chairperson of the Parliament, from workers who want their rights confirmed and protected by law. If rights are being violated against the will of the people, we will fight for them,”said Plamen Dimitrov President, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria.

“We have a taste of the initial impact of the economic crisis in the stories of the real abuses we have seen today. We are seeing a coordinated attack on these rights, and we are drawing a line in the sand to stop them,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary ITUC.

The Global Inquiry Panellists in Bulgaria for the hearing 8 March 2012:
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC
Maria Helena Andre, Former Minister for Labour Portugal
Plamen Dimitrov, President, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria
Dr Konstantin Trenchev, President, Confederation of Labour Podkrepa