77% of Bulgarian Trains Halted by Strike on 3rd DayBusiness | November 26, 2011, Saturday // 16:57| views
"STRIKE", reads the banner of railway workers at the Central Railway Station in Sofia. Photo by BGNES
The third day of the general strike of Bulgarian railway workers has halted 77% of the trains of the vastly indebted Bulgarian State Railways BDZ, according to data of the syndicates.
A total of 201 trains out of 261 scheduled to run between 8 am and 4 pm on Saturday have been stopped by the strikers, the two trade unions – the Podkrepa Labor Confederation and the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates (KNSB) claimed in a press stated.
They further said they have no information about the operation of 28 trains on Saturday, meaning that the total number of stranded trains might be even higher.
The figures, however, should not be taken for granted because of the past three days – since the strike kicked off on Thursday, November 24, not only the syndicates and the government, but also the Transport Ministry and the management of the state-owned company BDZ have been providing conflicting data about the number of trains in operation and the number of striking workers.
In their Saturday's statement, the syndicates have accused the government and the BDZ company of continuing to violate the labor rights of the protesting workers, including reports of insults uttered by lower management members towards the strikers.
The syndicates stand firm in their intention to keep up the strike regardless of Friday's statement of BDZ CEO Yordan Nedev that a 10-day strike would bankrupt the anyway troubled railway operator, and the statement of BDZ Board Chair Vladimir Vladimirov that the company management may more than double the intended layoffs to 5000.
A total of 27 000 people are employed in Bulgaria's railways, with almost equal numbers in the railway operator BDZ (BDZ Passenger Services and BDZ Freight Services) and the National Company "Railway Infrastructure".
The BDZ company has been in a state of technical bankruptcy for a while, with total debts amounting to BGN 771 M as of October 2011; however, the catalyst for the general strike was the BDZ management plan to layoff 2 000 workers, and stop from operation some 150 trains as part of austerity measures, as well as the government's refusal to sign a new collective labor contract with the workers.
Regardless of the strike and the union protests, some 800 workers have already accepted a voluntary dismissal in exchange for the payment of six monthly salaries.
Neither the BDZ management, nor the syndicates have given any indication of yielding to the pressure of the other party for the time being.
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