Negotiations Held as Bulgaria's Railways Strike Enters Day 12

Business | December 5, 2011, Monday // 11:08|  views

Bulgarian labor unions are staging a mass strike after recent announcement of the management of the state-owned railway company BDZ that it intended to lay off 2 000 workers by January 2011. Photo by BGNES

Negotiations on bringing an end to the workers strike at the troubled State-owned Railway Company BDZ Holding are continuing Monday as the strike entered its 12th day.

The BDZ labor unions now say they will negotiate only in the presence of Transport Minister, Ivaylo Moskovski, after bringing to a standstill on Sunday those with the BDZ management. They say they do not trust the latter over a number of things such as them not having any idea about railways transportation.

The syndicates further accuse the BDZ management of lying to them.

"We agreed to sign the class labor contract with the 2009 parameters, and we were under the impression that the only remaining issue was how to protect those who will be laid off. In addition, the BDZ management earlier proposed a bonus system for workers, and we agreed with it. But when we negotiated the class labor contract, they threw at us amendments in 48 articles as a complete surprise – they would have led to a 35%-37% reduction of salaries, which we rejected," Sasho Aleksov, an union leader is quoted saying.

Transport Minister, Ivaylo Moskovski, noted the bonus system will guarantee that those with better job performance will get more money, stressing once again that only unpopular measures will rescue the company. Moskovski said he will attend the negotiations, but pointed out he stood firm behind the BDZ management.

Passenger and freight trains will be halted between 8 am and 4 pm Monday.

The strike was announced as termless. 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.

Last Monday, BDZ Freight Transport and BDZ Passenger Transport filed a Court claim to declare the strike illegal. On Sunday, the Sofia City Court announced that the trial in the civil case filed by the management has been launched.

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, collective bargaining, class labor contract


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