Population: 7,500,000
Capital: Sofia
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The poor economic situation provided a difficult climate for unions in which to operate in 2010. Violations of trade union rights were reported in both domestic and international companies. Public servants are excluded from many trade union activities, and the right to strike is limited.


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%.


Background: Economic growth was stagnant in 2010 and by the end of the year the budget deficit was running at 3.9%. The centre-right government has sought to reduce the deficit and there has been opposition to these measures. In March the parties in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation unanimously agreed on 59 measures for economic stability, relating to fiscal policy, reducing public expenditure, supporting households, labour market reforms and measures within the social insurance system.

Still no labour courts: In March 2004, the government announced it was examining the possibility of setting up specialised labour courts. The process has continued with ILO assistance.

Frequent harassment: In recent years, unions have reported frequent cases of discrimination and harassment against trade union activists and members, who have been relocated, downgraded or sacked. This has created fear and insecurity, often making workers reluctant to join a trade union. The legal proceedings for the reinstatement of dismissed workers can take a long time, sometimes years, while the sanctions against employers for unfair dismissal are too weak to be dissuasive. In the private sector, some employers have simply banned trade union membership within their enterprise and have forced newly employed workers to sign declarations that they will not establish or join trade unions. Temporary employment contracts are increasingly being used to prevent workers from demanding their rights.

Organising problematic in multinationals: Organising is especially difficult at new sites of multinational companies. Although some workers in the more recently opened establishments of the Metro commerce chain and plants of American Standard have joined trade unions, it is still very difficult to obtain real union recognition. Multinationals also rarely respect applicable sector-level collective agreements.

Ending the viability of a union branch in Silistra: At the Sava Dobroplodni theatre in Silistra the entire trade union committee, comprising the head and two secretaries, was dismissed. The subsequent interventions of the Labour Inspectorate were rejected by the employer, who then went on to dismiss more than 90% of the union's members, effectively removing the branch of the trade union from the theatre.

Freedom of association under threat at IBM Bulgaria: NFTINI Podkrepa, representing workers in the IT sector in Bulgaria, has reported on serious violations of freedom of association at IBM's global delivery centre in Sofia where workers involved in trade union activities have been subjected to intimidation and harassment. The trade union founded within IBM Bulgaria complies with local legislation and is recognised by the appropriate public administration, and is therefore entitled to full recognition by IBM's Bulgarian management. Podkrepa has demanded that IBM Bulgaria apply IBM's internal regulations stipulating the strict application of local legislation, and more broadly to respect internationally recognised workers' rights to join and form trade unions and to collective bargaining.

Hampering union activity in Kostenets: At the Kostenets Stock company in the town of Kostenets, the majority owner has since May 2010 put pressure on the head of the trade union branch in the enterprise with the aim of running down trade union organisation in the factory. Attempts have also been made to prevent the enterprise's trade union leader from accessing the factory.

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