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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Bulgaria

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Bulgaria, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 7,494,000
Capital: Sofia

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 7

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Unions were operating in a difficult economic environment and violations of trade union rights, particularly dismissals of union representatives, were reported in several companies. Public servants remain excluded from many trade union activities, and the right to strike is limited.


The economic situation remained difficult in 2011 with modest economic growth and unemployment above 10%. However the government's budget deficit target of 2.5% was likely to be met. A centre right candidate was victorious in the October presidential election.

Social dialogue in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation was strained at times with little agreement on issues relating to salaries, pensions and benefits, culminating in the Podkrepa union and the Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) withdrawing in November. The issue of pensions was the cause of this breakdown. The government had made proposals to raise the retirement age for all categories of labour; a proposal that contradicted the 2010 tripartite agreement for economic stability. Some 35,000 people protested against the plans at a national rally in Sofia on 30 November.

There were also protracted disputes over restructuring and redundancies in the state run railway and postal sectors.

Trade union rights in law

Despite decisions by the ILO and the Council of Europe, trade union rights are still not fully guaranteed. The Constitution provides for freedom of association, however foreign workers need prior authorisation to form a union. Furthermore, although workers are protected against anti-union discrimination, the burden of proof rests with the employee. There are also no provisions that protect trade unions against acts of interference in their internal affairs. Collective bargaining is allowed, but not for public servants.

The right to strike is limited by several restrictive provisions. The duration of the strike must be announced in advance, strikes can only be called in connection with collective disputes and after the exhaustion of all dispute resolution procedures, and public servants may only engage in "symbolic strikes", which means displaying signs and protest banners. In sectors where the right to strike is banned, there are no alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Also, the right to strike is circumscribed by requirements on the establishment of a minimum service, which in the railway sector amounts to an inordinate 50%.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Union confederation seeks legal changes: The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) launched a campaign on 9 May 2011 to protect workers' rights and promote the role of trade unions. Under the motto "Security through the law, flexibility through collective bargaining", CITUB proposed a number of legislative changes. These included a provision in the penal code to safeguard the right of association; new legislation to enforce the right to collective bargaining; a new strike law to end the current inconsistencies between the constitution which guarantees the right and the Law for Settlement of Collective Disputes.


Transport union leader dismissed in Plovdiv: At the freight transport company "Trans City" SA in Plovdiv, employees established a trade union organization led by Ivan Stefchov Geshev, a conductor. Before the trade union was formally established Mr Geshev received threats of dismissal if the establishment was to go ahead. On 2 February, the employer received the license of the trade union's legitimacy, and Mr Geshev was elected as leader of the organisation. On the same day he was dismissed.

Union leader at grain producer dismissed: "Rossitza Grain Fodder" is a producer of mixed grain feeds in the city of Pavlikeni. Company employees decided to establish a trade union organisation following clear violations of labour legislation, including poor wages, non-payment of over-time, and no respect for breaks as stipulated by law during working time. The establishment of the trade union was led by Gencho Kolev, who worked as an operator in the company. On the day of the establishment meeting he was dismissed on the grounds that he lacked the necessary education and qualifications, even though he had been working for seven years in the same position.

Congress centre dismisses union officials: Following the ministerial decision of 4th May to change the status of the NDK Congress Centre to that of a joint stock company, the new management team at NDK began a series of anti-union activities, including dismissals of trade union officials. These moves were in violation of the country's labour code. Amongst the four officials dismissed were the Chair and Secretary of the trade union "Federation Culture at CITUB" at the congress centre.

Transport union leader dismissed in Sofia: Domestic and international bus transport companies, "Etap Address" and "Group Plus" Ltd, are parts of Etap Group SA based in Sofia. As a result of unpaid wages and deductions from wages for technical materials, tensions in the group escalated. In order to defend their employment rights, employees established a trade union organisation. At the same time, anti-union actions began and the leader of the trade union, Anatoly Gospodinov, was dismissed. After his dismissal, the trade union organization disintegrated.

Striking workers replaced in bitter railway dispute:

A one hour warning strike was held by railway workers on 10 March 2011 calling for an end to employee redundancies and for improved working conditions. On the same day, a memorandum and two agreements were signed by the Ministries of Transport and Labour together with the leaders of Bulgaria's main trade union federations, Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and Podkrepa, concerning the future development of the railways as well as improving conditions for railway workers.

Although signed in a spirit of mutual cooperation the management of Bulgarian State Railways (BZD) and its holding company have since broken the agreement, through lay-offs, redundancies without consent, a refusal to negotiate a collective agreement with the unions, reductions in services, and privatisation of the profitable freight part of the network. As a result, the dispute became increasingly bitter and an indefinite strike by BZD employees began on 24 November 2011 and lasted 24 days, with trains not running on any day between 8am and 4pm.

CITUB reports that lock-outs have taken place with strikers being replaced by their non-striking heads and team leaders.

Bank dismisses trade union leader: The leader of the trade union organisation at the branch of the Economic and Investment Bank in Montana, Margarita Yordanova, was dismissed in violation of the labour code, in particular its rules relating to staff cuts and trade union leaders' protection. After intense court battles, the dismissal was declared illegal and Ms Yordanova was reinstated in her previous position. The employer had been using methods of harassment in the working place including, lack of a set working place, and lack of defined duties, as well as trying to transfer her to a branch in another city against her will.

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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