Workers in the Bulgarian city of Varna started a protest on Friday, November 27, against redundancies and other grievances as a result of the new restrictions imposed due to a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. Bus conductors in the city staged a protest against the introduction of an automated ticketing system in the city public transport, to come into effect from January next year, which is likely to lead to over 200 redundancies. Chefs and restaurant workers protested in front of the municipal office of Varna, demanding urgent measures in support of workers in the industry during the lockdown.
Bulgaria enforced a partial national lockdown from Friday to contain the new spike in COVID-19 infections. Schools, universities, malls, and most other establishments will remain closed under the lockdown. The functioning of restaurants, bars and cafes will also be restricted till December 21. In the wake of the new restrictions, protests were called under the leadership of the Committee of Bulgarian Chefs and the Autonomous Workers’ Confederation.
According to a report by Baricada.org, the protesters are demanding a minimum wage to be provided to each worker, whether they are on unpaid leave or laid off, until the end of the state of emergency. Workers have also requested bank guarantees for deferred payment to financial institutions for fast loans, household bills, fast mortgage and consumer loans. They are also demanding the state to declare a ban on forced termination of contracts by landlords and any other such immoral treatment during the state of emergency.
Regarding the bus conductors’ protest, the Autonomous Workers Confederation has requested the authorities to immediately cancel the redundancies and provide adequate compensations to the workers. The protesting bus conductors have demanded postponement of redundancies until the end of the state of emergency and the pandemic situation.
Even as the plight of workers around the country worsens due to the COVID-19 crisis, the right-wing GERB-led government is busy modifying the labor code in order to maximize the profits of private employers. The government’s proposal to increase the annual overtime working hours from 150 to 300 is currently awaiting parliamentary approval. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, major trade unions, and other progressive sections in the country have protested the proposal, comparing it to the controversial ‘Slave law’ enacted in Hungary by the right-wing government of prime minister Viktor Orban.