Bulgarian Labor Minister Ready to Sacrifice for Social Peace

Domestic | November 22, 2011, Tuesday // 11:36|  views

Bulgaria's Social Policy and Labor Minister, Totyu Mladenov, is not resigning yet, despite the yellow card given him by PM Borisov for failure to keep social dialogue open. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Social Policy and Labor Minister, Totyu Mladenov, qualifies his eventual resignation as an irresponsible act, but reiterates he is ready to throw it on the table any moment now.

Speaking in an interview for the TV channel bTV Tuesday, Mladenov stressed that to preserve "social peace" and to fulfill commitments to the Prime Minister and to a political party was way more important than his resignation.

The Minister stated he and his team were working "on the frontline" 12-15 hours each day and will do whatever it takes to reinstate the social dialogue and to continue implementing reforms.

"I am a moderate optimist in believing that the labor unions understand it is better to have a dialogue. I am convinced that they are reasonable; they see very well what is happening in Europe. A democracy allows all kinds of protests, but to go on strike is another matter – I do not recommend strikes in these difficult times. I appeal to the labor unions to sit with me on the table, debate the problem and find a solution," said Mladenov, adding a "bad" dialogue was better than no dialogue.

The Minister explained that employment and reducing unemployment rate was top priority of the cabinet, pointing out he wanted to "shake" a little those from the Employment Agency, so that they can reach both the unemployed and the business, and successfully implement all measures to increase qualifications and find new job openings.

In an interview for bTV Sunday, PM Boyko Borisov declared that he had already shown "the yellow card" to Mladenov. He stressed that Mladenov acted more like a labor union leader, not a minister, and warned he would be immediately replaced the next time Borisov is forced to explain himself to people (instead of the Minister) some changes, for example why retirement age must go up with one whole year as early as 2012.

The next day, Mladenov, on his part, stated that "Borisov was right about criticizing his work on the retirement reform.

"This is the PM's job – to criticize those ministers and ministries like me, who have not done their job," he said.

The Podkrepa (Support) Labor Confederation and the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates (KNSB) announced Sunday that they are quitting the Three-Way Council with the business and the cabinet.

The two labor unions also set the date of the national mass protest rally in front of the building of the Parliament in downtown Sofia and a protest march for November 30th.

The move of the syndicates to leave the Three-Way Council means an imminent failure in negotiations on all import social and economic issues the Council deals with.

The joint decision, first announced by Podkrepa, stems from outrage against sudden plans of the cabinet to increase retirement age and to eliminate years of service from determining bonuses to State servants.

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