Open letter to the european European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms and to the european ombudsman

Dear all,

As part of the Autonomous Workers’ Confederation — based in Varna, Bulgaria — we would like to inform you about the current social tension, emerging from the assimilation of European investments. In particular those in the “Regional Development” strategy of Varna. 

The European program in question goes by the number CCI2014BG16RFOP001, costing 84 million euros. According to the information that the local Municipality has provided, the funds will be used for modernization of public transport services. In addition, some of the objectives of the operational programme are:   

  • to reduce the socio-economic disparities between Bulgaria and other EU member states;
  • to make living and working conditions in Bulgaria more attractive.

As a trade union, our first and foremost obligation is to monitor the social consequences of the funds spending. In this particular case, the programme threatens to lay off hundreds of employees in the midst of an economic and health crisis. Moreover, it will cause panic and additional social tension in our already fragile everyday life. All of this happens on the background of an unprecedented surge in unemployment. According to the National Statistical Institute, only in the first week of December 2020 there are 14,200 new jobless individuals registered in the labor offices around the country.

The order of events

With the introduction of ticket machines in 2013, it’s widely known that the conductors (employed by the public company Gradsky Transport/City Transport) who were hitherto selling tickets would no longer be needed. Their redundancies have been postponed for years without any predictability for the workers. According to our information, there is no clear concept of how the implementation of the programme will achieve its social goals. In fact, in its current form it rather draws us away.

Even though we welcome the modernization of our public transport, we want to draw your attention to the fact that such an approach damages the EU programmes’ image. We have already launched a series of peaceful protests, gaining increasing support in the general public. Among our demands are:

  • postponing the redundancies in the company until the end of the state of emergency as well as the general pandemic situation;
  • Fair benefits for the sacked workers

If these demands are not met, we are sure that the reputation of European funding programmes will be seriously damaged. Furthermore, this will have an extremely negative impact on their future execution.

Therefore, we believe that it is in favor of the European Union and those directly involved in the “Regional Development” programme to take an official position on the topic. We insist that you clearly outline the programme’s objectives, while also supporting those working for the City Transport of Varna.

With respect,

Mergul Hassan Chairman of the ARC Varna,                                                      14.12.2020

Silver Waltott, Chairman of the ARC – Varna,