WILL THE EMPLOYMENT AGENCY LOSE ITS MONOPOLY?
Intermediaries on the labour market will not be allowed to recruit personnel for entrepreneurs whose workers go on a strike. This is one of the clauses in Convention 187 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which regulates the activities of the employment agencies. An integral part of the convention is Recommendation 188 that explains in details the rights and obligations of the labour agents. The draft on the ratification of the two documents was once discussed by the Parliamentary social commission. However, the documents will only become valid a year after the National Assembly approves them. Branch specialists expect them to help for restricting the number of permanent disputes between the state Employment Agency and the private labour intermediaries.The convention provides a clear definition of the employment agency and is explicit that private companies can take part in the labour market as well. Currently, private and state-owned intermediaries are not cooperating with each other. The sector is in chaos and we are witnesses to a series of inadequate actions taken with the aim to reduce the unemployment rate. The programs of the National Plan for Employment Activities, subject to approval by the Government, were only implemented by a state agency within the social ministry. In the future, private companies should get involved in their implementation, too. Therefore, the development of the public and private partnership will be encouraged, the recruitment system will become more flexible, and more rights of the workers will be guaranteed.In fact, what ILO wants to achieve is avoid that the employment encouragement policy be dictated by the cabinet. Instead, the policy should be decided with the direct participation of the employers and the trade-unions. However, a permanent body should be established in order to define the concrete parametres of the policy and the resources for its implementation, as well as to control their efficient spending. What program unemployed people will participate in and how the funds must be distributed is now decided by the members of the National Council for Encouragement of the Employment. However, the council does not operate permanently. Sessions are held from time to time and, what is more, it is a consultative body that decides almost nothing. When the ILO convention is ratified, the new body will have to hold regular sessions, watch the labour market strictly, and send periodic reports to the international organisation. The reports will describe the measures taken to reduce the unemployment and the result achieved.The International Labour Organisation is also going to monitor what type of experts work in the state and the private employment agencies. There are nearly 3,700 people working in the state one now and most of them do not have the necessary qualification. The Employment Agency has already announced competitions to recruit personnel in the labour bureaux. The applicants are required to have communication skills and computer literacy, while it is not necessary for them to have experience, a psychology degree or at least Human Resources Management diploma. At the same time, in order to improve the quality of the agent services the ILO requires that all companies operating in the sphere prove that their staff possesses the necessary knowledge and skills. The international experts even recommend that a speciality for training labour intermediaries be created in the Bulgarian universities.Anyway, the future of the current market players - private labour bureaux and recruiting agencies, seems curious. According to the ILO regulations, companies that assess the workers' professional skills are not legal agents. Its experts claim that the human resources management is an activity being done within the structure of any company. A labour agent licence is only required when staff is recruited in the whole country. Even when the ILO convention becomes effective, however, staff assessment agencies are not going to disappear. They will keep competing with the labour bureaux, experts in the sphere predict. Their number will even increase simply because they are not subject to state licensing and supervision. On the other hand, private labour bureaux will be renamed agencies, will be required to pay at least BGN900 and to pass through a clumsy licensing procedure if they want to operate legally. What will happen if the state listens to the ILO recommendations and begins to request bank guarantees from all labour agents is another question.In accordance with the convention, the employment agencies will be obliged to observe the Private Data Act - they will have to register as operators working with confidential information. The vacant jobs announcements will be put under strict control, too. It happens that fly-by-night agencies publish announcements that they seek personnel, people apply and pay significant amounts, and then the agents disappear. A few years ago the scheme was applied for recruiting staff to work abroad. Now it is also used for speculative employment in Bulgaria. The Chief Labour Inspection is going to impose sanctions on the violators. Additionally, the agents will have to prepare a special ethic code and create their own branch organisation.There is more good news for the unemployed people. The convention will forbid the employment agencies to take a percentage of the first salary paid to those recruited with their assistance. Exceptions will be made for certain positions and following an agreement with the ILO. Only employers will be asked to pay a fee to the agents.Within a year following the adoption of the ILO Convention 187, the Employment Encouragement Act will have to be amended and the system of the labour bureaux reorganized. The state Employment Agency will have to lose its monopolistic position and get accustomed to the idea that it will share with the private agents even international agreements in the future. The agency will certainly not enjoy that and private intermediaries expect that it will soon start pressing against the adoption of the document. The question is - which lobby in the National Assembly will appear stronger in the ratification of the ILO convention.