European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

Accueil > Covid Social Impact > Bulgaria > Bulgaria: migration and labour mobility act disputed by t...


10 May 2018

Bulgaria: migration and labour mobility act disputed by the trade unions

The amended Migration and Labour Mobility Act has been sharply criticised by the trade union movement. They fear that easier access to the labour market will lead to the increase of precarious work. The unions warn that, with wages being the lowest in the EU, the massive influx of workers they expect threatens to destabilise the labour market by providing cheap competition to the domestic workforce.

In early March 2018, several amendments to the Migration and Labour Mobility Act were adopted. The Act that will be effective from 23 May 2018 makes it possible for small and medium-sized enterprises to work with a 35% proportion of third-country employees (up from 10%). This means in practice that every third employee in some companies could be a foreigner. Moreover, the mandatory blue card market test has been dropped and employers are no longer required to prove that they have not been able to find the required personnel domestically over a period of 6 months. Official estimates from the government are that 300 000 workers who will arrive in the country. In 2017, only 117 foreigners from third countries received a blue card, mainly IT specialists and engineers from Ukraine, Russia and India. Another 4,000 workers got permission for seasonal work and worked as in jobs with shortages such as waiters and receptionists.

The trade unions have been very critical about the amended Act. Spokespersons of trade unions Podkrepa and KNSB warned for the fact that another door has been opened to social dumping. And in this case, the dumping is not only in the West, but also in the poorer East. According to the unions, the country has been a source of cheap labour and low taxes in the past three decades. As a result, it has functioned as a source of dumping (labour, social, tax) for Western Europe. According to the unions the tourism and hospitality sectors do not need qualified labour, although employers claim a shortage.

Unions have listed several arguments against the Act. First, with Bulgarian wages being traditionally the lowest in the EU, although with recent signs of improvement, a massive influx of lower wage workers threatens to destabilize the labour market and keep wages down. Second, the lack of prospects for decent jobs and salaries might cause renewed migration towards Western Europe, worsening the already deplorable demographic situation in the country. Third, an unexpected inflow of foreign citizens, even to countries with stable public welfare systems, will lead to an increase of social tension and fuel the far-right.  

All news