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Length-of-service allowance remains

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Valeriy Simeonov said that solutions to problems related to Bulgarian labor legislation will be sought in the Tripartite Cooperation Council
Photo: BTA

The issue of whether to keep or abolish the allowance for length-of-service and professional experience in Bulgaria which is also known locally with the term “length-of-service class” has become one of the most widely discussed topics this week. The idea to abolish this allowance came from the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic and demographic policy Valeri Simeonov who however specified that this was his personal thesis and it did not express the position of his parliamentary group or of the Bulgarian government. He added that the idea should be discussed by the Tripartite Council for National Cooperation.

The stance of Deputy PM Simeonov has been gladly supported by the Bulgarian employers. They believe that it is time for wages to be formed fully based on market principles meaning they should depend on demand and supply in different sectors, as well as on the productivity of the respective worker. The employers have voiced the thesis that the length-of-service allowance creates inequality among employees. In their view employees with zero work record or with a short one are the losers in this respect because they are not necessarily less productive or efficient in the respective workplace.

Valeri Simeonov’s idea though met with firm opposition on the part of trade unions who declared determination to defend the length-of-service allowance and readiness to launch protests in case it is abolished. They have also said that such ideas should become the subject of a wide public discussion involving trade unions, employer organizations and the government. Trade unions have also voiced fears that the elimination of the allowance would seriously harm incomes that are too low anyway and would thus deprive low-paid workers of a considerable part of their monthly earnings. This is likely to entail further deprivation and poverty for a large number of people.

Employers have argued that such a threat will be eliminated provided wages are indexed with the size of the length-of-service allowance. Trade unions and a few economists however have argued that it would be wrong to rely on the good will of employers for this to take place.

In this context an urgent meeting was called on Thursday, 20 July, at Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s office at the initiative of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and Podkrepa Labor Confederation (PLC). During talks PM Borissov assured the trade union leaders that the length-of-service and professional-experience allowance would remain.

PLC President Dimitar Manolov stated that the issue of abolishing the length-of-service allowance was not on the public agenda. CITUB President Plamen Dimitrov in turn added that the issue of abolishing this allowance was not part of the government program now in the making and that it was not this allowance but rather incomes, employment and reforms in healthcare and education that were the Bulgarian society’s current priorities awaiting common solutions.

In turn Deputy PM Valeri Simeonov stated that all participants in the meeting at the Prime Minister had agreed that solutions of problems related to the labor legislation should be discussed by the Tripartite Council and voiced regret over his prematurely expressed personal opinion widely perceived as the position of the government.

Following the meeting it has become clear that changes are in the pipeline to the organization of work at the Tripartite Council for National Cooperation. They are meant to account for all topical and debatable issues as well as for the government program now in the making.

English Daniela Konstantinova

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