Tough gov’t measures testing patience of Bulgarian workers

SOFIA (Reuters) – The government of former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg is alienating Bulgarians with tough economic reforms, and its IMF-backed agenda is stoking unrest and costing it support, a key union leader said yesterday. As the European Union candidate gears up for general elections next year, Saxe-Coburg’s ruling party is clawing its way back from a dramatic drop in popularity since it swept to power in 2001. Progress toward EU entry and robust economic growth have garnered it recent gains in opinion polls. But plans to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers and to phase out public payroll benefits have sparked labor protests. «This government has no partners. It only has enemies: the media, the opposition, and now the labor unions,» Konstantin Trenchev, leader of the Podkrepa trade union, told Reuters. «We were the only significant group which was not openly at war with the government, but now they have declared war on us,» said Trenchev, whose union will take part in a one-hour strike today. Thousands of workers will hold a symbolic stoppage against plans to abolish so-called «seniority bonuses» and other communist-designed wage mechanisms that the government and IMF say strain state finances, dampen job growth, and dissuade investors.