One of Bulgaria’s largest police trade unions said on August 20 it was prepared to hold protest rallies if the Cabinet did not increase the wages of police personnel by 25 per cent, a pledge made by the previous government in 2008, news website mediapool.bg reported, quoting a letter sent to media outlets.
In a statement, the union also asked for the lifting of the current ban on police officers holding second jobs the private sector – despite the official interdiction, many police officers supplement their income by working for private security companies when off-duty, mediapool.bg said.
Other demands included limitations on overtime work, which is now remunerated with extra time off-duty, a request that the Interior Ministry has repeatedly rejected, saying that police officers enjoyed other perks not available to the rest of the labour force. The union has filed a complaint with the country’s discrimination watchdog, which is yet to rule on the matter.
The union also asked for harsher penalties for assault on police officers, saying that under current regulations, such cases usually resulted in nothing more than fines in the 200 leva to 300 leva range.
The union’s representatives are due to meet Interior Ministry officials to discuss the demands on August 22. The union insists that its demands are accepted soon, so that the wage increase is included in next year’s state Budget.
Otherwise, the union threatens to hold protest rallies – under Bulgarian law, police officers are not allowed to go on effective strike in case of labour disputes.
The union’s demands, however, are unlikely to gather much public support – Bulgaria has one of the highest ratios of police officers per capita in the European Union, while public approval of the police’s work and public trust in the police rank consistently low in opinion surveys.
Furthermore, the Interior Ministry is already the largest recipient of Budget funding, more than a billion leva this year, which was slightly higher than in 2011 despite austerity cuts in other areas.
(Bulgarian police officers in Sofia, photo by Zé.Valdi/flickr.com)