Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, faced with public protests by police and Interior Ministry employees who want 25 per cent pay increases and changes to their working conditions, said on September 24 that their salaries would go up – but not at the moment.
Police, dressed in civilian clothes, turned out in the centre of the Bulgarian capital city Sofia on September 23 and 24 to underline their demands for better pay.
Interior Ministry pay last went up four years ago, before the current centre-right government headed by Borissov – a former chief secretary of the ministry – came to power in 2009 parliamentary elections.
Less than a year before the country’s scheduled 2013 parliamentary elections, he and his close lieutenant, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, have found themselves facing police protests reminiscent of those a few years ago.
On September 21, Tsvetanov said that pay increases of five per cent could be possible, at best seven per cent. In an open letter to Interior Ministry employees, he asked for understanding of the difficult financial and economic situation.
But on September 24, Borissov said that “salaries of police will be increased at the first chance, but not now”.
He reiterated statements made by himself and other Cabinet ministers, that his government intended increasing pensions and the salaries of teachers and medical staff and said that the government was “thinking about the material provision of the police officers by improving working conditions”.
Borissov said that the government hopes to increase salaries in other fields, too, as soon as it can but if it did so now, he said, “we would go bankrupt”.
Bulgaria’s government of the past few years has made a point of pride of its fiscal discipline, with some ministers pointing to the dire straits into which other European Union countries have plummeted by taking a less disciplined approach.
Borissov said as much in his message to Interior Ministry employees, saying that they should look at what was happening in Greece, Spain and other countries, and they would then understand that the Bulgarian government’s approach was “balanced and correct”.
“With all due respect and love to the police officers, I have to tell them that we will increase the salaries as soon as we can, but we will not endanger the financial policy of the state” Borissov said.
On the second day of the police protest, which attracted a vastly smaller turnout than the more than 1000 participants on September 23, the message was that protests would continue protests as long as the government did not show willingness to engage in dialogue.
Lack of communication was one of the main reasons for the protest, Interior Ministry trade union federation leader Valentin Popov said.
Union representatives said that they were prepared to compromise, but not unless there were negotiations, and these negotiations should take place beforeBulgaria’s 2013 Budget was finalised, they said.
(Photo: Council of the European Union)