Trade unions in Bulgaria view sexual harassment at work as a matter of protecting the health and safety of employees and as a specific problem of gender equality in the workplace.
The unions, together with the employers' organizations, are currently developing a draft national agreement. At this stage, it has not yet been signed by the nationally representative employers' organizations, but is the result of the efforts and desire of both organizations (CITUB and BIA) to reduce all phenomena of harassment and violence at work.
Expectations are to speed up this process, from which mechanisms should be sought to introduce measures into national practice in line with the implementation of the European Framework Agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work. According to the unions, there are no specific measures for prevention of sexual harassment in the CLAs at national, sectoral and company level and such should be developed and implemented. This is still a new topic that is not touched so deeply in the CLAs. Because the CLA gives certain rights over the statutory ones set out in the Labour Code, while sexual harassment is only one element of a general provision for non-discrimination and harassment in establishing employment relationships.
In the process of CLA negotiations, the attention is more focused on pay and working conditions, while this phenomenon remains in the background, no measures are sought and no specific clauses for prevention are agreed. The opinion of the representative of the employers' organizations is that
there are successful practices that are applied in Bulgarian companies, especially if they are MNC divisions,
in which along with the general topic of violence and harassment at work, there are specific provisions aimed at sexual harassment. MNC policies create an atmosphere of intolerance against all forms of violence and harassment. These processes are managed by the human resource managers, because business definitely suffers in an environment of tension and conflicts. The employer has an interest in creating policies for prevention of sexual harassment in order to try to manage these processes and minimize this type of relationship.
As examples of good practice trade unions point out the activities of some trade union federations at CITUB such as: the Union of Bulgarian Teachers, the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria (FTTUB) and the Federation of Healthcare Trade Unions, which have signed sectoral agreements against violence and harassment at work.
The healthcare sector is the first sector in Bulgaria to systematically deal with violence and harassment at work
and includes specific provisions in the sectoral collective agreements and the establishment of committees for safe working conditions and health at work. The sectoral CLA stipulates that the employer, together with the trade unions in the health service, must take effective measures to prevent any form of discrimination (direct or indirect), physical or psychosocial harassment and must ensure working conditions that protect workers from chronic stress, physical and mental disabilities in the workplace. The sectoral agreements set the framework for the collective agreements of healthcare institutions, thus providing the initial impetus for negotiating more practical provisions at institutional level and imposing mandatory actions to be taken.
In the transport sector, as a result of a long-term campaign initiated by the FTTUB, specific agreements have been signed with employers on non-violence against women. Since 2012 the CLA in the transport sector includes a special chapter
‘Protection against workplace violence and gender equality’,
which contains provisions for joint actions by employers and trade unions to prevent violence and harassment in the framework of the zero tolerance to violence policy. One of the clauses states that the employer is obliged to pursue a zero tolerance policy to discrimination and violence at work in its various manifestations - physical, mental and sexual. In addition, the employer shall develop procedures to be followed in cases of harassment or violence, which include:
(1) immediate and fair internal investigation;
(2) reporting on cases of violence;
(4) adequate disciplinary measures against the perpetrators, if they are employees of the same enterprise;
(5) support for the victim and, if necessary, psychological assistance in the process of reintegration of the victims of violence.
At the municipal level, non-binding agreements have been concluded for joint actions to prevent harassment and violence against women in the workplace. The joint agreement with Sofia Municipality covers cooperation and joint actions for prevention of harassment and violence against women in public transport companies. The agreement was signed by the mayors of Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Sliven and Gabrovo. The agreements with municipalities have been used as a basis for signing additional collective agreements in municipal companies and enterprises, including public transport. A campaign to increase public vigilance against violence has been launched in the four cities in Bulgaria mentioned above, with whose municipalities the FTTUB has concluded agreements. The campaign covers both public transport and passenger rail transport. One of the successes of the campaign is that stickers that read
"Stop gender- based violence in the workplace"
are pasted inside buses, trams, trolleys and trains. Other sectoral agreements on violence and harassment have been signed in the metallurgy, mining, postal services, brewing and energy sectors, including clauses addressing violence and harassment in the workplace.
What about the business in Bulgaria?
The management of Nova Trade EOOD company has adopted a specific document against harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. The document describes the definitions of harassment and sexual harassment, as well as examples and forms of sexual harassment. All managers and employees are familiar with it. Thus the company strives to create and maintain a work environment in which people treat each other with dignity, decency and respect.
The company does not tolerate discrimination and/or harassment of any kind. By imposing this policy and by training the staff, the company aims to prevent and/or correct behaviour that is in direct violation of this policy. All employees, regardless of their position in the company fall within the scope of this policy and are expected to respect the rights and obligations, as well as to take the necessary measures in case they notice indecent or inappropriate behaviour contrary to this policy.
Managers who allow or tolerate discrimination, harassment or repression, including refusal to immediately report incidents related to this policy, are in violation of the policy and may be subject to disciplinary action.
The non-governmental sector favours such company policies. According to them, internal company campaigns against sexual harassment need to be conducted and improved until the employees become advocates of the idea. When employees start talking about the topic, discussing specific cases and seeking rights, then there is success.
The content of this publication represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.