Bulgarian police protesting against changes to the retirement age and against their working conditions put up a tent and a bivouac – meant to represent dire living conditions while on duty at the Turkish border – outside the National Assembly in Sofia on June 14.
Police, firefighters and prisons warders, who began their national protest on June 12, have pledged to continue their protests for several days, until their demands are met.
The Interior Ministry has said that the dialogue between the two sides will continue to seek solutions to the problems.
Interior Ministry trade union leader Valentin Popov told reporters that there would be a “permanent presence” of 10 to 15 police at the “tent camp” and the union was considering raising a petition in support of their demands.
The “tent camp” would remain in place for 10 days, Popov said. If during this time a solution was not achieved, the protests would continue.
The police unions have demanded the resignation of Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova, Deputy Interior Minister Krassimir Tsipov and the heads of the fire department and legal department at the Interior Ministry over the planned pension reforms.
The government proposes a retirement age for Interior Ministry employees of 52 years and 10 months as of 2016, gradually increasing until the retirement age would be 55 in 13 years’ time.
The unions want the reform put off until 2018.
The firefighters’ union has not demanded resignations, with union head Lyubomir Elenkov saying that the board had made no such decision, and this remained the only point on which the police and firefighters’ unions differed. The board would be convened to discuss the mattter, he said.
Asked to comment on the problem of overtime work, which has remained unsolved for many years, Popov said: “No matter what we say, in the end, the problem comes down to money. It is not about the extra working hours – even the operation along the Turkish border is not the major reason for it – it is about the lack of staff, despite the myths that Bulgaria has biggest number of police officers per capita of the population”.
This issue could be solved with a good analysis of the situation and appointment of personnel, he said.
Buchvarova and Deputy Prime Minister for Demographic and Social Policies and Minister of Labour and Social Policy Ivailo Kalfin made it clear that they would not give in on their position on the retirement age increase.
Buchvarova, speaking on June 12, said that unions and the Interior Ministry leadership wanted the same thing – “better decisions and better policies to do our job more efficiently”.