Some union leaders in Bulgaria have a message for private businesses: the wages are too low.
A Feb. 3 article in Radio Bulgaria chronicles a local phenomenon of trade unions sending Christmas cards to Bulgarian employers, suggesting that workers deserve a pay raise.
Backing this are statistics showing favorable Bulgarian labor productivity, combined with wages that labor advocates say are up to 80 percent lower than corresponding wages in other European Union member states.
Citing productivity growth of 4 percent in 2016, union leaders want to see pay increase across the board for Bulgarian workers.
“We published data for the entire period of transition,” Plamen Dimitrov, president of Bulgaria’s Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) told Radio Bulgaria. He contended that the Bulgarian economy allows for each worker to be paid an additional $79.49 per month.
“Statistics show labor productivity changes during the last 27 years; we studied value added profits in some sectors and proved that Bulgarians produce two times more than they averagely get as payment,” he said.
Dimitrov referred to a website with available public numbers backing up his claims.
“When numbers speak, some observers must be silent,” Dimitrov said. “When over the years people have not received as much as they produced, the business has appropriated the added value.”
The Radio Bulgaria report also quoted Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce Bozhidar Danev, who argued that incomes in Bulgaria are far ahead of productivity.
Joe Carella, who is assistant dean of executive education at the University of Arizona and has extensive experience in business management, told Balkan Business Wire how Bulgaria might handle this type of dispute.
“Bulgaria must improve the way it manages the labor supply and demand forecast since to date it is difficult for employers and the state itself to have a comprehensive view of its labor market, its shortages and oversupply,” Carella said.
In terms of growing incomes, Carella said such measures require research and a deliberate approach.
“Rather than a blanket increase in salaries, the issue of low wages can only be addressed if both employers and unions work together to identify areas of labor shortages and work to jointly develop a skilled workforce providing fast access to education and training,” he said.
Carella also noted that Bulgaria also struggles to handle the attrition of talented
professionals, which he called “brain drain,” after the country’s entrance into
the European Union in 2007.
In other financial news, Bulgaria’s economy might soon get a shot in the arm from a rather unlikely source.
New reports show Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting that Russia is interested in renewing the idea of energy collaborations with Bulgaria after a failed South Stream pipeline project fell apart in 2014 in the face of European resistance.
A recent piece at Balkan Insight is one example showing diplomatic buzz about the prospects of a Russian-Bulgarian energy partnership.
In the meantime, Bulgarian leaders will have to try to clarify the picture of their national economy to sort out where labor really stands.