By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) foresees a hard autumn with protests in many sectors unless a number of unresolved issues are addressed in the 2014 national Budget.
Speaking on September 25 during a protest by postal employees, Plamen Dimitrov, leader of CITUB – which brings together more than 30 unions and labour federations – said, “Bulgarian Posts were the first, and according to me, there will be protests in the coal sector too, followed by protests spreading throughout the entire energy sector, which is fraught with imbalances because the changes don’t seem to be working”.
There was also tension in the transport sector, where state railways BDZ was “on the brink of collapse,” Dimitrov said.
One of the major problems facing the embattled Bulgarian Socialist Party government, which took office in May 2013, is the energy sector. It has attempted minor reforms in its first 100 days in office, mainly intended as a quick-fix to keep consumer prices down, with the effect if any of these reforms remaining to be seen.
The current government has been targeted by continuous public protests demanding its resignation, but no trade union federation has joined in.
“We gave our evaluation of the first 100 days of the term of office of the government. We said we were dissatisfied with the social policy of the cabinet. We expected much more measures. This should change over the next few weeks with the preparation of the Budget 2014,” Dimitrov said.
“If it does not plan to bring clarity and transparency in terms of who governs the country, this government will not stay in power for too long. The same is valid for the Parliament,” he said.
Dimitrov said that the trade union confederation was preparing a strategy for its demands.
“We are giving a deadline until October 15 for the holding of talks and to see whether they plan to take into consideration some of our demands in the social sector and the economy. Meanwhile, the trade union will set out its future steps in all sectors. There is tension,” Dimitrov said.
He said that the “easies and fastest way for the money to reach the pockets of working Bulgarians” was the introduction of a tax-free minimum threshold in the current flat tax on individuals.
According to Dimitrov, this would allow 600 million to 650 million leva to reach working Bulgarians.
CITUB also wanted the 2014 Budget to provide for an increase of public sectors by at least 10 per cent.
All of these demands would be put to the Cabinet, and the confederation would ask for a meeting with the prime minister, finance minister and transport minister at the end of the September 25 sitting of the cabinet, Dimitrov said.
“We are ready to head for protests, national meetings and strikes unless there is a change in the social policy,” Dimitrov said. “If there are no actions in this direction and if there is no clear vision about change of people’s incomes – salaries and pensions, we are ready to have reference to all forms of protests, national meetings and strikes,” he said.