Bulgarian Police Protests Enter Fourth Day
Bulgarian police protested for a fourth day in a row in central Sofia on Friday against government plans to trim social benefits for Interior Ministry staff.
Police protests were also held in other Bulgarian cities, including Varna, Shumen, Ruse and Vidin, BNT TV channel reported.
Some 150 police blocked traffic at Orlov Most square, an intersection of two of the busiest boulevards in Sofia. Public transport has been diverted to other routes.
Protesters have said that 3,000 to 5,000 police officers from across the country are expected to gather in Sofia on Sunday to press their demands.
The government has already backtracked on its initial plan, saying the planned cuts in social benefits will only apply to newly appointed staff. More specifically, the cuts affect the one-off compensation paid upon retirement, additional payments pegged to the number of years in service as well as the duration of paid annual leave.
However, the governments plans to trim social benefits at the Interior Ministry and allocate more funds to purchases of new police cars and equipment have prompted some police officers to file notices of resignation.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, who had proposed the spending cuts in the 2016 budget draft now before parliament, on Friday called on protesting Interior Ministry employees not to rush to leave the system.
Goranov said the government has already made some concessions regarding the pay of Interior Ministr employees. Moreover, the labour market in Bulgaria doesn’t offer many opportunities to quickly find a new job to those of them who opt out, Goranov said.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov called on the protesters to beware of being misled and manipulated but stopped short of saying who might be trying to use their protest for political goals.
Borisov also said that on Friday he has authorized the purchase of about 200 new motor vehicles used by police to transport refugees and migrants.
Separately, BGN 3.5 M (EUR 1.75 M), will be spent on improving working conditions for police force, including repairs of their car fleet and purchases of new PCs and printers, Borisov said.
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