Bulgarian police mull end to pay protests after government agrees to 100M leva salary boost

Bulgarian police mull end to pay protests after government agrees to 100M leva salary boost

An early-morning meeting on January 11 between Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and police trade union representatives produced an agreement for the government to add a further 100 million leva for salary increases at the Interior Ministry.

The meeting was held on the morning of the day Bulgaria formally takes over, for six months, the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Police unions were among those who were using the occasion to draw attention to their demands.

The meeting between Borissov and the police union representatives was a sequel to an incident in which the unions had put up billboards in English on routes in Sofia to be used by senior EU officials. However, the company that owns the billboards took them down amid the controversy, claiming it had been misled about what the billboards would say.

Borissov condemned the removal of the billboards and offered the police unions the use of a billboard that had been set aside for the EU Presidency, but this offer was refused and instead the unions demanded talks with him, to which he agreed.

The police union protests on January 11 were to go ahead in spite of Borissov's pledge of the further 100 million leva (about 50 million euro), which are projected to amount to salary increases of about 10 per cent. The head of the largest police union, Valentin Popov, is to propose that the protests be suspended from January 12.

The government is to vote the additional spending within two weeks, it emerged after the January 11 meeting.

Bulgaria's Deputy Interior Minister, Krassimir Tsipov, said that the allocation of the money did not amount to a deal to get the police to stop the protests.

Police trade union representatives said that the problem of the low pay of Interior Ministry employees should be met with a sustainable solution.

The January 11 pledge by Borissov represents a turnabout for his coalition government, which until now has met police trade unions' demands for more pay with the response that provision already had been made for increased pay in the 2018 Budget.../IBNA

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