Bulgarian government promised protesting miners a secure civil service
A protest in Sofia, organised by the two unions of Bulgarian miners and energy workers from the Maritsa basin, led to an agreement with the government to guarantee the preservation of jobs for those employed in the sector.
Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov held talks with the leaders of the trade unions, Plamen Dimitrov and Dimitar Manolov, and committed to signing an agreement between the government and the trade unions for a fair transition of the coal regions.
The plan should include a timetable for reducing the capacities of coal-fired power plants, and the preservation of jobs will be guaranteed by the creation of a state enterprise in which all those currently working in the state mines and Maritsa Iztok 2 TPP will be reassigned, it was announced at the briefing after talks on Tuesday.
The government’s promise appears to satisfy unions, for which the members from the coalfield are particularly important. Guaranteeing a government job in a purpose-established enterprise will prevent the destruction of a membership that pays membership fees and provides leverage for political pressure.
The government and unions are aware that coal power has no future because of the increasing cost of maintaining it. In 2023, state-owned coal mines again made a serious loss due to reduced sales, and expectations are that these losses will continue to increase.
The agreement between the unions and the government will guarantee that all miners and energy workers from the state-owned enterprises will keep their wages at the new enterprise. Their jobs will be guaranteed until 2050 if they haven’t retired by then.
“Even if one person becomes unemployed, there should be a place to be employed at the same salary and under the same working conditions,” Dimitrov said, describing the enterprise as an “overflow for employment.”
Unions envision the enterprise as a place where workers will be recruited who, in practice, have no work elsewhere. There will be guaranteed wages for these people for decades to come.
“When there are periods when the (coal) facilities are not working, workers will be assigned there,” Dimitrov said.
The Just Transition Plan envisages the gradual reclamation of mine sites in the Maritsa Basin and the construction of an industrial zone to utilise the region’s workforce. The industrial zone should use the renewable energy capacities built there.
Bulgaria is late in sending territorial plans for a just transition for the three coal regions, which puts €1.8 billion worth of European funds at risk. The country should use this money to create a new type of employment and a green economy in these regions, but it risks losing it.
(Krassen Nikolov | Euractiv.bg)