Bulgarian Employers, Trade Unions Lock Horns over Labor Code
The prospect of changes to Bulgaria's Labor Code has triggered a heated debate between employers and trade unions in the country.
Defending a set of 29 proposals for substantial changes to the Labor Code, Bozhidar Danev, Executive Chair of the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), has insisted that the country needs modern institutions in the sector.
Among the proposals put forth by employers were provisions allowing the employment of fifteen-year-olds, e-mail dismissal notifications, introducing electronic employment records, and regulations on the transfer of workers between companies.
Speaking Friday in an interview for the morning broadcast of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Danev insisted that the set of proposed legal changes did not really envisage dramatic changes and would not necessarily stir up clashes but could cause the parties to engage in normal dialogue instead.
“Bulgaria lacks modern institutions to guarantee modern industrial relations – there is no labor court, there is no preliminary labor arbitrage, there are no mediation institutions, which all European countries have” Danev noted.
He stressed that Bulgaria's current Labor Code had been adopted on April 1, 1986, against the backdrop of very different industrial relations. Danev vowed that the set of 29 measures proposed by employers' associations was in line with EU law and would bring Bulgaria nearer to European markets.
"We are at the bottom of any ranking and things will stay that way until we adopt normal EU laws on the labor market, until the arms-twisting of employers by trade unions threatening strikes and similar actions stops, as well as their unceasing calls for social benefits” Danev emphasized.
To illustrate the need of Bulgaria catching up with European labor markets, he informed that reduced-hour employment in Europe stood at 19.5%, compared to 2.4% in Bulgaria, fixed-term employment contracts in Europe stood at 14.1%, compared to 4.1% in Bulgaria and the share of people with a second employment contract amounted to 3.8% in Europe and 0.4% in Bulgaria.
Konstantin Trenchev, President of the Podkrepa Labor Confederation, who also took part in Friday's morning broadcast of BNT, said that the trade union agreed with a part of the proposals and noted that there was no need to dramatize as the employers were free to propose anything but it was up to MPs whether it would become a law or not.
He noted that trade unions were in favor of a labor court, adding that they had proposed the measure back in 1995, and the idea to launch electronic employment record.
Trenchev insisted, however, that the remaining measures were something “no sensible person would agree to.”