STRIKES IN THREE SECTORS REMAIN OUT OF LAW
Bulgarian rulers are deliberately avoiding the adoption of the Law on Settling Collective Labour Disputes because of the numerous contradictions in the text, Tchavdar Hristov, Secretary Chief of the Confederation of Independent Trade-Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), said. The document was moved to the National Assembly last November and was approved by the social commission. No progress has been registered since then, however.Much controversy was caused by the the fact that the bill kept the prohibition of strike actions by state officials and people employed in the energy, healthcare, and communications sectors. The first option of the bill regulated the protest rights of medical workers and those employed in telecommunications. However, the Council of Ministers was not likely to accept such amendments. According to the authorities, an arbitrator is needed in cases of labour disputes in these sectors. However, it is written in the Constitution that jurisdiction in Bulgaria can only be implemented by the structures of the judicial system, while arbitration is not among them. Therefore, it turns out that arbitrators' decisions are useless or at least not obliging. Nevertheless, the new law will stipulate that strikes will only be organized if the collective labour dispute has already passed through conciliators and no solution has been found.The activities of the intermediaries will be organized by the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitration, established last year. So far, the institute has considered only one disputable case and the high price of the service is pointed out as the main reason for that. An expert who takes part in the solving of labour conflicts is paid at least BGN100 a day, while the minimum term he needs to do his job according to the contestable document is 14 days.Trade-union experts are of the opinion that the banning of effective strike actions should be entirely abolished. CITUB members add that the draft amendments to the Law on Meetings, Strikes, and Demonstrations, prepared by the Council of Ministers, contradicts the Constitution, too. The draft stipulates that permission for protest actions must be issued by the mayor of the respective municipality. He will be allowed to refuse such permission even if there is the smallest threat of a terrorist act. That will be an excuse to forbid us to strike, the trade-union complaints.If the MPs adopt the amendments to the law, large-scale manifestations near sites of national security will be banned, too.