15 August, 2023On 7 August in a groundbreaking move, Bulgaria’s Parliament approved a series of amendments to the Penal Code. This is a great victory for the trade union movement as any crimes committed against workers in their right to freedom of association will now be punishable with one to five years imprisonment or fine up of to $5000.
Bulgarian unions, including IndustriALL affiliates won a 30-year long battle when Parliament approved these changes which criminalizes actions directed against the right of association of workers and employees in Bulgaria.
The amendment includes any offences committed against the right of workers to join trade unions, may it be through violence, threats, or in any other illegal way, which prevents someone from exercising their right to join a trade union by forcing them to renounce their membership in a trade union organization or by preventing them from creating one. If any acts are repeatedly committed the penalty is imprisonment for up to five years or a fine up to $5000.
Tsvetelina Milchalieva president of the Light Industry Federation, says:
“The right of association of workers and employees is regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, but until now it has not been legally protected despite the constant efforts of CITUB and industrial federations and the repeated indication of this. That is why our latest proposal to change the Labour Code in this direction is also connected with the Directive 2022/2041 of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 19, 2022 regarding adequate minimum wages and the promotion of collective bargaining in the European Union. Any change as this one, which is in favour of freedom of trade union association is a huge step forward as long as it is used in the right direction, as it is intended.”
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary says,
“IndustriALL Global Union congratulates our affiliate on this great victory. The long and hard years of campaigning and fighting for workers rights has paid off. Securing workers’ interests are one of the main priorities of the union movement. We need more of these life changing stories.”
The Penal Code amendments have also imposed stiffer penalties for illegally trafficking people across borders, with a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of 10 years if minors are involved. The amendments also address labor rights, introducing penalties for forcing someone to join or refuse to join a trade union.