Ombudsman Starts Probe into 'Feudal' Working Conditions in Bobov Dol
Bulgaria's National Ombudsman Konstantin Penchev has referred to the Labor Inspectorate over working conditions at the controversial Bobov Dol mine.
He said on the BNT he was appalled at the "disgraces [shown] as a background to allegations and hidden cameras [reporting] of ballot-buying and corporate voting".
Penchev's comments came days after footage secretly made by private channel NOVA TV allegedly showed instances of controlled vote.
The video was aired in the eve of European elections, with its "uncut" version (the one with a party's ballot number inside) only being posted later on social media. It prompted the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to mull a response, but the election watchdog decided to take no action.
Expressing his shock at the developments in the Bobov Dol mine, the Ombusdman made clear what horrified him more were the events at a shop at the town of Bobov Dol owned by the proprietor of the mine.
TV reports show workers standing in huge queues in front of it, waiting to use the coupons they were given at work which could be spent in a single shop. Customers could have an entire day in front of the grocery waiting for a kg of meat and even when goods are supplied there, only meatballs are in stock.
On Tuesday, in a more recent video even, a group of people can be seen in a queue brawling over packages of minced meat.
Penchev said the probe he asked at the General Labor Inspectorate will investigate into whether Bulgarian legislation allows Hristo Kovachki, who runs the mines, to oblige workers to cash their coupons only in his grocery.
"This is why I referred to institutions - so that they examine why this man fools people," he explained and added "the inhuman and feudal conditions in which these miners are working in the 21st century" will also be subject to investigation.
Penchev compared conditions at the Bobov Dol mines to the dawn of "capitalism in Great Britain three centuries ago."
He expressed his astonishment that miners working there had never sought them to complain, suggesting they might be afraid to do so.
"At elections they count them cattle - this one secured 100, the other one 200 people to vote," Penchev added to comment information of controlled election process at the mine, but obviously also referring to other instances of corporate voting at different rounds of elections in Bulgaria - a troubling phenomenon against which legal action is seldom taken.