Bulgarian trade unions have reacted harshly against recent indications on part of the government that it plans to privatize, fully or partially, Bulgarian Posts EAD, Bulgaria's state postal operator.
After on last week, the Economy Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament approved a bill providing that Bulgaria's postal service state-owned company "Bulgarian Posts EAD" will be taken off the list of companies banned from being privatized, together with three other companies, on Monday, Bulgaria's two major syndicates, the Podkrepa Labor Confederation and the Confederation of Independent Bulgarian Syndicates (KNSB), started to collect signatures against the draft legislation and threatened to stage protests.
The amendments to the privatization law were tabled and adopted with the votes of members of parliament from the ruling GERB party. They were harshly criticized by the opposition Socialist party and representatives of the trade unions, who saw them as the first step towards the company's privatization.
"Bulgarian Posts" don't need to be privatized, the company can manage well on its own," declared Plamen Dochev, head of the Communications Federation at Pokrepa, speaking at a press conference Monday.
"About 100 000 people are expected to give their signatures against the privatizaiton of Bulgarian Posts," explained Valentin Nikoforov, Vice President of KNSB.
KNSB Communications Federation head Georgi Boshev pointed out that postal services are "a natural monopol" that is not subject to privatization in any country.
According to the GERB part MPs who came up with the idea to remove the company from the "no privatization" list, their idea was not to privatize the posts but to attract a high-profile foreign investor as a minority stake owner that would bring good know-how in terms of technology.
Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski told Blue Coalition MP Martin Dimitrov, who is the head of the Economy Committee in Parliament, that a potential privatization would be beneficial for Bulgarian Posts, while Moskovski's deputy Parvan Rusinov explained in Parliament that a full-fledged review of the company will be completed by the end of July 2011, and will determine the future course of action.
"The four companies in question are no longer defining for the economy, and in this way we will improve their liquidity and competitiveness, and will raise funds for the state budget and the Silver Fund (i.e. state pension reserve)," explained GERB MP Valentin Nikolov, speaking on BNR.
"We wish to see the strategy for the development of Bulgarian Posts that will preserve the jobs because the company ended 2010 with a profit. Universal postal services are a state monopoly in all of the EU according to a directive. We swallowed the sacking of 1000 people last year but we won't swallow anything else," union leader Nikiforov warned.
The syndicates are convinced they will gather 100 000 signatures within 120 days, until the first reading of the law in Parliament, and will stage a protest of postal workers in front of the Parliament building.
Bulgarian Posts EAD serves over 320 postal stations and 5 200 cities, towns, and villages across Bulgaria; it employs 12 800 people at present, after 1000 were laid off in 2010.
Bulgaria's government recently took measures to liberalize the postal services market. At the end of 2010, the Parliament amended Friday the Postal Services Act to remove the monopoly of the state-owned company "Bulgarian Posts EAD".
As of January 1, 2011, the monopoly of Bulgarian Posts on small parcels – smaller than 50grams – was eliminated with a legislative amendment. These services formed one-fifth of the company's annual revenue.
At the same time, the law assigned to the state company the universal postal services in the country for a period of 15 years based on the fact that Bulgarian Posts is the only entity in Bulgaria which has the infrastructure to provide these kinds of services. Their performance will be inspected and evaluated every 5 years.