Bulgarian Railway Workers Strike Enters Day Two
Hundreds of trains in Bulgaria will grind to a halt for the second day on Friday in protest against austerity cuts, but will hardly trigger chaos as commuters opt for the omnipresent bus.
Bulgarian railway workers are set to strike every day from 8 am till 4 pm until they resolve their differences with the government and at least reach a compromise.
Bulgaria's railway workers rose in revolt against the intention of the BDZ management to lay off at least 2 000 employees of the company, and to reduce the number of trains in operation in Bulgaria by about 150, as part of a wider reform package unveiled in October 2011.
As of November 24, a total of 700 BDZ workers slated for layoffs have accepted voluntarily the offer of the company to be dismissed in exchange for 6 monthly salaries.
Another major grievance of the syndicates for the vastly troubled BDZ company, whose total debts amount to BGN 771 M, is the management's refusal to sign a new collective labor contract.
The government says it has two options: it can either lay off 2,000 employees, or let the company go bankrupt.
Nobody seems to know how many trains really were affected by the railway workers' strike in Bulgaria on the first day of the strike on Thursday, with the Transport Ministry, the Bulgarian State Railways BDZ, and the syndicates all reporting different figures.
According to the syndicates, the general strike of the Bulgarian railway workers stopped 218 out of a total of 264 trains that were supposed to be in operation in Bulgaria on Thursday.
The Transport Ministry, however, announced vastly different data – 85 out of 210 trains were stranded by the strikers.
To add to the confusion later on Thursday, the state-owned BDZ company itself published still different data – 122 out of 263, or some 40% of the trains were stopped by the railway strike.
Late Thursday night the Transport Ministry corrected its data, directly replacing it with the numbers of the BDZ company.
The data divergence went even further with respect to the number of railway workers who took part in the strike.
Only 444 – or 3.4% of the some 13 000 employees of the BDZ Holding – went on strike Thursday, according to the Transport Ministry.
Only 492 workers of the National Company Railroad Infrastructure – or 3.8% out of total of almost 14 000 employees – also took part in the strike, the Bulgarian government claims, calculating the total number of workers of the two state-owned railway companies who went on strike at 936 out of almost 27 000, or only 3.6%.
The Transport Ministry also adds that there was striking activity only at 30 out of a total of 335 railway stations in the country. It estimated that some 27 000 passengers out of a total of 90 000 traveling by train in Bulgaria daily have been affected by the strike.
"This is the usual nonsense of the BDZ management," syndicate leader Petar Bunev commented regarding the claims of the state company that a very small percentage of workers actually took part in the strike.
"The first day of the strike went even better than expected, especially against the backdrop of the severe pressure on the BDZ workers. We expect a greater number of workers to join the strike tomorrow," Bunev explained.
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