Bulgaria’s four employer associations, one of the parties in the advisory tripartite council with labour unions and the government, quit the council on April 2 in protest over recent legislative amendments requiring them to disclose assets.
The amendments to the law that requires senior civil servants and elected officials to declare their assets each year, one of the last acts of Parliament before it was prorogued last month, expanded the list to include both trade union and employer organisation representatives that sit on the council.
The council’s function is to act as a place where labour unions and employer organisations can give their input to government policies, especially on matters of taxation and social policies that directly influence labour relations. It is not elected – instead, the country’s largest trade unions and employer associations designate their representatives.
Representatives of the four employer groups represented in the council said that they believed the amendments to be unconstitutional. Existing legislation already allowed tax authorities to check assets, the chairperson of the Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Tsvetan Simeonov said.
The employer associations said that they planne to take up the issue with the ombudsman – the only official who can bring the case to the Constitutional Court in the absence of a parliament.
Labour union representatives, too, criticised the amendments, but said that they would submit their asset declarations as required by law, as well as discuss the issue with the ombudsman’s office.
At its meeting on April 2, the council was expected to discuss the details of arrangements to pay out 41 million leva to socially vulnerable groups – the funds were set aside last week by the caretaker Cabinet.
The employer associations said that they had reached agreement in principle with the proposed guidelines for the payments, but would not participate further in the council’s meetings while the disclosure of assets amendments were still in force.
(Bulgaria’s Cabinet building. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)