European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Bulgaria - background summary

  • Trade union membership in Bulgaria is around 21% (2012) of the workforce on average and appears to be declining.
  • There are estimated to be around 370,000 trade union members in Bulgaria (in 2012). The trade union membership has decreased slightly in recent years. Official data from the last census 2016 are still not available.
  • The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) is the largest trade union in Bulgaria. CITUB was established in 1990 on the basis of the former single trade union during the communist period (Balgarski Profesionalni Sauzi - BPS). According to the official data from the census 2012, it had 275,762 members. CITUB includes 36 branch federations.
  • The other major trade union is the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa. It was founded on 8 February 1989 by a small group of dissidents. The CL “Podkrepa” has 88,329 members in 25 affiliates (2012 census). In the 2016 census, Podkrepa claims to represent 80,000 members.
  • Collective bargaining in Bulgaria takes place mainly on the company level between trade union sections and employers. According to the latest data of the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitrage, the number of company-level agreements is decreasing.
  • Sectoral collective bargaining takes place between sectoral trade unions and employer organisations. The number of sectoral agreements has decreased in recent years. Only a limited number of sectors have agreements that are generally applicable (the extension procedures envisaged by labour legislation already back in 2001 were not implemented until 2010, after that the agreements in 5 branches were extended in the period 2010-2013). In the last three years this process is actually blocked. Collective bargaining coverage is currently estimated at 23% and is declining.
  • There is a tripartite council on the national level. The National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) was established in 1993. It consists of members from all representative trade unions and employers’ organisations as well as government representatives. NCTC has an advisory role to the government as it can adopt recommendations that are not legally binding. The council is an important body for discussing employment issues, labour law, social security systems, living standard or the minimum wage.
  • Pay is the key issue for negotiations, particularly on 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.
  • According to the European Company Survey 2013, only 26.1% of workplaces have official structures for employee representation (ECS 2013).