Half of Bulgaria's State Railways Quits Strike

Business | December 16, 2011, Friday // 18:56
Bulgaria: Half of Bulgaria's State Railways Quits Strike Syndicate leader Petar Bunev (left) is pictured here during talks on Dec 1 with BDZ CEO Yordan Nedev (middle) and BDZ Board head Vladimir Vladimirov. Photo by BGNES

Syndicates at one of the two state railway companies - "National Company Railway Infrastructure" - have decided to terminate their general strike that they have been involved in for the past 23 days, a union leader announced.

Workers at Bulgaria's two railway companies – BDZ – which is in charge of the passenger and freight traffic – and National Company Railway Infrastructure (NKZI) – in charge of railroad maintenance – have been striking since November 24 over the government plan to lay off 2000 workers at BDZ, and to terminate from operation about 150 trains as part of supposed restructuring of the BDZ company, whose total debts amounted to BGN 771 M as of October 2011.

BDZ has about 13 000 employees, 2000 of whom are slated for layoffs, and NKZI has almost 14 000 workers.

The strike committees at NKZI – which saw less of the protest activity than BDZ – have decided to stop striking as of Saturday, December 17, announced Petar Bunev, head of the railway syndicate at the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates (KNSB).

The decision was made even though the unionists have not achieved a new striking agreement and a new deal for a collective labor contract with company management and the Transport Ministry yet.

"They see no point in striking any more because we can't achieve anything, and if we do, it could be worse than what we had before. If the NKZI management starts to decrease salaries, we will rise on strike again," Bunev explained as cited by BGNES.

Bunev did point out that BDZ Freight Services, one of the three subdivisions of BDZ, has achieved a new labor contract agreement but BDZ Passenger Services has not as of yet, even though on Friday the syndicates and government negotiated for more than eight hours.

He stressed, however, his intention to terminate the entire strike – BDZ included – until the middle of January because of Christmas and New Year's.

"We don't want to torture the most vulnerable parts of the population so that pensions can't go to visit their grandchildren for the holidays because of the strike. We demonstrated that we can carry out a general strike but the most important thing is to achieve results!" he stated.

The syndicates and the BDZ management once again provided diverging figures about the effect of Friday's strike activity, which has been taking place daily between 8 am and 4 pm.

According to the BDZ management, only 35 out of 244 trains scheduled to run on Friday were stopped by the strike, while the syndicates claim 60 trains.

BDZ says there were on 20 people at key positions that were on strike on Friday, while the unionists claim at least 100.

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