Working Bulgaria is holding a national protest on 27 October, calling for decent wages, under the flags of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CITUB). The slogan of the protest is Working Bulgaria wants higher wages.
Some 6,000 people are expected to join the march, which will stop at the Council of Ministers and the headquarters of the employers’ organisation, the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (AICB). “We have our state budget claims for areas that are inadequately financed and will remain so over the next year as well,” said CITUB president Plamen Dimitrov. These are mostly the agencies working on the ground for social protection, employment, revenue and customs, homes for the elderly, schools and healthcare. “For them, there is a 5% increase in the budget for 2018,” explained Mr Dimitrov. “We want at least 10% and even 15% in places.”
Another problem is the chronic underfunding of science. CITUB will also support a protest by the National Academy of Science and the Agricultural Academy on 1 November.
“CITUB’s demands are for wages only, there is no political interference. We do not plan to overthrow the government,” said Plamen Dimitrov firmly. “On the contrary, most of our members believe that it will complete its full four-year term. Our intention is to express clearly and powerfully the employees’ demands for higher salaries.
“Our main goal is to make the government create an environment where we can negotiate peacefully with real businesses, for higher wages. That is why CITUB calls for the introduction of a whole new chapter in the Labour Code to regulate wage negotiations.
“We are urging Bulgaria to join the Alliance for Upward Wage Convergence, which is now being formed in Europe. It is initiated by the European Trade Union Confederation and aims to bring together the representatives of the European Commission, Member States and multinational companies in the name of higher wages in Eastern Europe. There is a core of pressure from eight countries including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Sweden – the biggest investors. The Visegrad Group also joins in. Our country has to take part in this initiative because it will lead to a real wage increase in our country,” he concluded.
Among the other reasons for the protest are attempts to remove Bulgarian workers’ fundamental rights, such as the seniority bonus (according to length of service and age), and to cut sick leave pay for the first three days.
“Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU and this also affects the healthcare system,” said CITUB Vice President and Chairman of the Federation of Health Unions, Dr Ivan Kakalov. He repeated one of the main demands of people in this sector – that workers in large and small towns should receive decent and commensurable remuneration.