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The ITF congress is being held in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city at the invitation of the ITF Bulgarian affiliates, with special support from ITF executive board member, Ekaterina Yordanova of the Federation of Transport Trade Unions of Bulgaria, FTTUB. See here for a list of ITF affiliates.

Did you know?

  • Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe

  • The Bulgarian alphabet was created in the 9th century

  • Bulgarians descend from Thracians, Bulgars and Slavs

You can find out more about Bulgaria’s rich history by downloading the congress information booklet.

Trade unions in Bulgaria: old but young

The trade union movement in Bulgaria emerged after the end of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878. The first to organise were teachers, followed by print workers who took strike action, dissatisfied with pay and poor working conditions. In subsequent years workers from different industries came together to form trade union organisations. At first, they were associated with the socialist parties in the country, but in 1924 they merged and declared independence.

After the Soviet-backed ‘Socialist Revolution of 9 September 1944’ the Fatherland Front (OF) took power and established a people’s republic. Private property was nationalised and the other parties were liquidated. New unions were established and all workers came together in the General Workers' Trade Union (GWTU), strongly linked to the Communist party. Some pro-worker legislation was adopted at that time, which partially remains in force today.

In 1987 certain autonomy was granted to trade unions that allowed for decisions on tasks and operations to be owned by the unions. As a result two national trade unions emerged – the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour Support (CL Podkrepa) – reviving the trade union movement in Bulgaria. So, trade unions in Bulgaria have a long history – but are young at the same time.

Trade Union Rights Today

Recently independent, trade unionism faces hostility due to privatisation and new employers that have emerged. As a result social dialogue has had to begin from scratch in some cases, and in the private sector it is still informally banned.

Today, trade union density in the country is 20%, with 27% density in the transport sector.

The law does not provide adequate protection against acts of interference by employers. Strikes are hindered by excessive legal prerequisites requiring the majority of all workers in an enterprise to vote in favour of strike action. Civil servants do not have the right to collective bargaining or the right to strike. Railway workers are also excessively restricted in their right to strike as the law establishes broad minimum services in railway services.

Issues have been raised with Bulgaria’s labour inspectorate over the refusal to bargain in good faith and anti-union discrimination against union leaders and there have been attacks against union premises and property.

For more on union rights in Bulgaria see the ITUC annual survey.