Bulgaria Police Officers Brace for Nationwide Protest over Pay Cuts
Police officers across Bulgaria are set to take to the streets on Wednesday evening unless the government abandons plans for pay cuts.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is to meet with the ministers of interior and finance early on Wednesday to seek changes to proposed pay cuts in the budget of the Interior Ministry, but also the Defense Ministry and the national security service DANS.
But Radan Kanev, co-head of the right-wing Reformist Bloc coalition which is a junior partner in Bulgaria's minority government, has warned a move by the cabinet to backtrack over an "illegal protest" would send "a bad signal". Police and armed forces are not allowed to protest under their own institutions' code of conduct, even though some laws, such as the Interior Ministry Act, include the right to protest action if it is organized by a union.
A meeting of the Consultative Defense Council is also due the same day to discuss the payment cuts for armed forces staff.
Remuneration and retirement compensations of thousands of police officers will be affected if ministers proceed with the measures, which were added to the 2016 budget draft just before the cabinet approved the bill on Friday.
On Tuesday evening, thousands of police officers took to the streets in what unions describe as a spontaneous demonstration. In Sofia alone, over 1000 people protested, severely disrupting traffic.
That prompted Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova and Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov to announce that planned cuts may be delayed.
A bigger rally is scheduled for 18:00 EET on Wednesday, with unions estimating numbers of participants nationwide at about 20 000.
A union representing the armed forces' staff warned they are expected to join police officers' demonstrations.
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