CEZ Bulgaria Workers Prepare for Strike

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CEZ Bulgaria Workers Prepare for Strike

Workers of CEZ Distribution Bulgaria are beginning negotiations with their employers and are preparing for a strike over low wages and the lack of investments, Miroslav Mitovski, who chairs the Energy Industry chapter of the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour, told journalists on Tuesday.

The average monthly wage in the electricity distributing company is 800 leva, but 90 per cent of the workers earn 500 leva in gross wage, Mitovski said. The workers demand a 25 per cent wage increase. They also believe that the investments made by the Czech-owned company are very low. The managers buy primarily cheap equipment, which increases electricity transmission losses and can cause incidents, BTA is reporting.

According to Mitovski, the wage increase will not affect the price of electricity because the money is already included in the price. Workers' wages in the other two electricity distributing companies in Bulgaria are 25 to 30 per cent higher, averaging between 900 and 950 leva per month, he said.

The company managers want to fire 400 collectors, 15 emergency workers and 70 other personnel. According to trade unions, if these people are dismissed, electricity supply can be disrupted even without a strike because many installations are in poor condition.

If no agreement is reached with the managers, the first buildings to be left without electricity will be the CEZ offices, Mitovski said. Hospitals, kindergartens and other public buildings will not be affected by the power cuts.

CEZ Bulgaria invested 60 million leva in its network in 2007 and is planning to invest another 30 million leva in 2008, which is far from enough, according to Mitovski.

Milena Nakova, Director for Human Resources at CEZ Bulgaria, said a collective agreement between the company and the trade unions will be signed later this week. The conditions in the agreement have been largely determined, she said.

The employer has made a lot more concessions in the negotiations than the trade unions, Nakova said. She expressed hope that the workers, too, will make concessions in order to reach agreement as soon as possible. CEZ offers a 17 per cent wage increase, which will bring the average base wage in the company to 652 leva, and this is only part of the workers' pay.

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