Hundreds of Bulgarian police, dressed in civilian clothes, gathered in central Sofia on September 23 2012 for the first of a two-day series of protests demanding 25 per cent pay rises and changes to laws to improve their working conditions.
Leaders of the trade union at the Interior Ministry said that it had been four years since pay last was increased, and their patience was exhausted, including with the succession of promises that had been made by Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Interior Minister and Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Trade union leader Valentin Popov said that the law set no limits on overtime but set limits on the amounts that could be paid for overtime.
The union also wants the law changed to allow police to engage in outside work.
Dialogue with the minister produced results only slowly and then, not the results that police wanted, Popov said.
Some days ago, Tsvetanov sent a letter to Interior Ministry employees, saying that the ministry was ready for dialogue but asked for understanding in times of economic crisis.
Unions said that if their demands were not satisfied, they would proceed with other forms of protest, which they were keeping secret for now “so as not to spoil the surprise for Tsvetanov”.
Faced with the demand for 25 per cent pay increased, Tsvetanov told journalists on September 21 that the government could handle an increase of incomes at the Interior Ministry, but within certain limits. He said that it would be most realistic to speak of a five per cent increase, at best seven per cent.
The protest by police was supported by others in Bulgaria’s uniformed services, including groups of prison warders nationally and individually at various jails, employees of the Customs Agency, the association of public officials who are members of the Bulgarian Medical Association, and – according to the police protest organisers – members of the military.
Separately, speaking on September 21, Bulgarian Defence Minister Anyu Angelov said that there had been discussions between the defence and finance ministries on pay increases for Bulgaria’s military, but the final amount would be decided only when the national Budget for next year was finalised.
(Photo of Tsvetan Tsvetanov: Council of the European Union)
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