Bulgaria's Railway Workers Go on Hunger Strike as Tensions Escalate

Business | December 4, 2011, Sunday // 17:35|  views

Passenger and freight trains were halted between 8 am and 4 pm on Sunday, the eleventh day since the strike began. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Despite expectations that the strike at Bulgaria's troubled railway company is coming to an end, on Sunday trade unions walked out of talks and two workers went on hunger strike.

Passenger and freight trains were halted between 8 am and 4 pm on Sunday, the eleventh day since the strike began.

The railways syndicates and the management held difficult talks Saturday, way into the night, and the only clause left to be agreed on was how the workers, who will be laid off, will be protected.

BDZ board of directors president Vladimir Vladimirov announced that the company has offered trade unions a new version of the collective bargaining agreement for consideration. The syndicates immediately countered they were disappointed by the proposed text and put an end to the negotiaitons.

The labor unions are adamant the strike will continue until an agreement is reached with the BDZ management. They demand the signing of a class labor contract under the same parameters as before the announced start of the reform.

The syndicates blame the management of BDZ and the National Company Railroad Infrastructure in applying "lockout" to the strike and replacing striking workers with others without the needed qualifications. They are appealing to more workers to join the strike.

On Monday, BDZ Freight Transport and BDZ Passenger Transport filed a Court claim to declare the strike illegal.

The management of the company and Transport Minister, Ivaylo Moskovski, promised that no one will be fired for taking part in the strike, even though they deem the action illegal.

The labor unions vowed to stage an effective,  mass, termless strike after the recent notice of the management of the heavily indebted state-owned railway company BDZ Holding that it intended to lay off 2 000 workers, and reduce the number of trains in operation by 150 (later scaled down to 138) by January 2012.

In addition, ticket prices along state-subsidized routes will be increased by 9% as of January 1, 2012, and those of "business trains", i.e. the handful of profitable railway routes in Bulgaria – by 15% as December 1, 2011.

The strike began on November 24.

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Tags: BDZ, Strike, Bulgarian State Railways, railway workers, protest, layoffs, layoff, Transport Ministry, Transport Minister, Strike, trade union, BDZ, Bulgarian State Railways, Ivaylo Moskovski, KNSB, railway strike, syndicates, BDZ, trains, state railways, Podkrepa


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