European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Bulgaria - Background summary (update March 2019)

  • Trade union membership in Bulgaria is around 16% (based on the National census in 2016) [1] of the total number of employees. The total number of trade union members in Bulgaria is around 360,000. A decrease in the trade union membershipcan be observed since the late 1990s.There are 2 representative national trade union confederations, both affiliated to the ETUC.
  • The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) is the largest trade union in Bulgaria, established in 1990 on the basis of the former single trade union centre during the communist period. According to the data from the census in 2016, it represents 270 000 members. CITUB includes 38 sectoral and branch federations and trade unions, which cover most of the economic sectors and also 3 sectoral trade unions and 3 other similar organisations (all of them called ‘associate organisations’), which don’t have full affiliation, but they entitle the confederation to represent them. The confederation also has its regional and municipal councils in all regions in the country.
  • The second major trade union is the Confederation of Labour (CL) Podkrepa. It was founded on 8 February 1989 by a small group of dissidents. In the 2016 census, Podkrepa claims to represent about 80 000 members. The confederation includes 25 sectoral and branch federations and trade unions and 35 regional and municipal organisations in all regions of the country.
  • In 2012, the density of membership in the employers’ organisations was 29% of all private companies. The density of membership of the national employers’ organisation is difficult to determine, as many single employers and sectoral employers’ associations belong to more than one national employers’ organisation. According to legal requirements, the single employers and the sectoral/branch employers’ organisations should entitle only one national employers’ organisation with the exceptional right to represent them in the social partnership at the national level. Also, the single employers should entitle only one sectoral/branch employers’ association with the right to represent them in the sectoral collective bargaining and in the social partnership at the sectoral level. The density of membership of employers’ organisations, counted on the base of the total number of employers, is approximately 18 % (data from the census in 2016).
  • There are 5 nationally representative employers‘ organisations. Among them is the Confederation of the employers and industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB or CEIBG). KRIB includes both sectoral/branch associations (130) and many single employers, mainly MNC subsidiaries and big national companies, as well as some other associations, NGOs etc. KRIB has more than 130 regional and municipal councils in the regions of the country.
  • A second organization is the Industrial Association-Union of Bulgarian Business (BIA). BIA has 120 sectoral/branch employers' organisations from all the sectors of the economy. Also, some single employers, including banks, universities, hospitals etc. are affiliated. BIA has regional and municipal organisations in all of the regions in the country. BIA is a member of BUSINESSEUROPE.
  • The Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA) has 80 sectoral associations, with single employers and groups of employers and holdings as members. It has regional and municipal councils, including 2/3 of the municipalities in the country. BICA is a member of the CEEP.
  • The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) includes 99 sectoral associations and some single employers. BCCI also has regional and municipal organisations in all regions of the country and is a member of the EUROCHAMBERS.
  • Union of Private Employers’ Enterprising (UPEE) is an organisation comprising mainly small and medium sized businesses. As a result, from the census in 2012 its status as representative at national level was abolished. During the last census in 2016, UPEE was again recognised as a representative employers’ organisation at the national level, although all other employers’ organisations disagreed with the decision. UPEE is a member of UEAPME.
  • The national tripartite council, establishedin 1993 consists of members from all representative trade unions and employers’ organisations as well as government representatives. It has an advisory role to the government. There are similar tripartite councils in most of the sectors. The national and sectoral councils are discussing employment issues, labour law, social security systems, living standard and the minimum wage. There are also bipartite councils in some of the sectors. The bipartite partnership exists at the national inter-sectoral level, but there are no regular meetings.
  • Collective bargaining in Bulgaria takes place at sectoral and company level. Also, municipal level collective bargaining exists for organisations, financed by the municipal budgets. The civil servants don’t have collective bargaining rights. There is a process of decentralisation and deregulation of the collective bargaining, mainly because of the pressure by the employers and their associations, expressed especially during the last 10 years. There have been 29 sectoral collective agreements, 153 municipal agreements and 3330 company/organisation level agreements in force in recent years. The number of sectoral agreements has decreased in recent years. Only a limited number of sectors have agreements that are generally applicable, although the extension procedures were envisaged by labour legislation already back in 2001.
  • According to the ECS of Eurofound in 2013, the coverage of collective bargaining for Bulgaria is 23% for private companies (37% in 2010). The number of company-level agreements is also decreasing and in 2016 the coverage of collective bargaining only at the company level was 12.5 %. The data of the ILO for the same year are 10.8%. In the public sector (education, local administration, some public services like water supply, railways, posts etc.) the coverage is higher (often above 50%). In 2017-2018, the collective bargaining coverage in total (sectoral, municipal and company level) was estimated at 27%(according to the data from trade unions). Pay is the key issue for negotiations, particularly at the company level. However, the negotiations also cover other issues such as working conditions, working time and leave, social benefits at work, health and safety, training and trade union rights and facilities.
  • In the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitration (NICA), there were 13 collective labour disputes, including strikes, registered in 2017, covering more than 36000 employees. In 2017 there were only 3 strikes in the companies, all in the mining industry, with 121 workers participating and a total of 313 working days lost. Apart from the collective labour disputes registered in the NICA, there are no official statistical data about the strikes. In 2017 a big national demonstration, asking for an increase of wages was organised by the CITUB. In 2018, there were several demonstrations, mainly of miners. They expressed the resistance to the possible restructuring and closure of some electricity power stations and mines and demanded an increase in wages.
  • According to the European Company Survey 2013, only 26.1% of workplaces have official structures for employee representation (ECS 2013). Trade unions still play the main role in employee representation, although in many units there are elected I&C representatives, other special representatives and H&S committees. However, in most private companies, especially in the SMEs, there is no kind of representation, except H&S committees or groups.

[1] The data from the census are not officially published, in the summary only the data from the trade unions and employers’ organisations are used.

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