Bulgaria's Railway Talks Fall Through, Strike On

Business | November 30, 2011, Wednesday // 17:15|  views

BDZ CEO Yordan Nedev (standing left) and BDZ Board head Vladimir Vladimirov (standing right) during Wednesday's talks with the syndicates. Photo by BGNES

The first round of negotiations between the Bulgarian State Railways BDZ and the syndicates over the ongoing strike has failed to produce an agreement.

Bulgaria's railway workers have been on strike for seven days now, rising against a government plan to lay off 2000 out of the more than 13 000 BDZ workers, and to stop from operation some 150 trains.

The syndicates have also protested against the planned privatization of the only profitable devision of BDZ – BDZ Freight Services – and have been demanding the signing of a new collective labor contract.

"Whoever has stood up against the people has lost invariable. Bulgaria's Finance Minister Simeon Djankov will fail, too, even though he acted like Louis XIV during our meeting, "I am the state, I make the decisions," declared Petar Bunev, head of the railway syndicate at the KNSB (Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates).

"The strike will not stop till those "janissaries" from the BDZ management resign. We will not forgive them for calling us "nits" and "fat" [that needs to be cut off]. We will not forgive them this genocide in the railways!" Bunev said, as cited by money.bg.

Wednesday's talks focused largely on the March 2011 agreement when a last-minute deal prevented a mass railway strike of the type that is now going on in Bulgaria.

The only thing the syndicates and the BDZ management agreed upon Wednesday was that the state company has delayed the supplies of work clothing and foot stamps for its workers, thus failing to meet these commitments it made in March, the BGNES news agency reported.

"You are right to be angry about the food vouchers," admitted BDZ CEO Yordan Nedev. The total food vouchers that BDZ owes to its workers are valued at BGN 2.3 M.

"For the time being it is impossible for us to pay this sum, and I can only beg the workers for an excuse," Nedev stated.

BDZ Board Chair Vladimir Vladimirov revealed that BDZ's total overdue debts amount to BGN 280 M, and that some of the dues in question have been delayed by 2 years.

The syndicates failed to agree with the government-owned company on whether BDZ has laid off workers without the agreement of the unions.

"For the time being no workers have been laid off. We are only convincing the employees to resign in exchange for six monthly salaries. 789 workers have agreed to do that so far. We can safely say that all those 2000 to whom we have made this offer will agree," Vladimirov said, proposing a new meeting with the syndicates over their major grievance – the signing of a new collective labor contract.

The management of BDZ intends to find new employment of 110 railway workers at the Sofia Metro in 2012, its representatives pointed out.

The Bulgarian railway strike talks will continue Thursday morning amidst irreconcilable positions of the two parties.

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Tags: Bulgarian State Railways, BDZ, syndicates, trade unions, Vladimir Vladimirov, Yordan Nedev, Strike, BDZ Freight Services, layoffs, collective labor contract


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