Following we document a Call for Solidarity from the Independent Workers‘ Association – ARK from Bulgaria.
„It is with anxiety and anger that we are following the events in Pirogov Hospital, the largest hospital in Bulgaria. It is already difficult enough to protest in this country, but in recent days we have been facing unprecedented repression against the Bulgarian Nurses‘ Union (SBMS) and its branch in Pirogov. To better understand the Bulgarian context, let us specify that ALL the hospitals here have the status of commercial companies and their priority is therefore to generate profit! The salaries of health staff depend on the number of patients treated in each hospital. They are therefore paid by the target, which has led to a large number of bad practices and even corruption. All hospitals in Bulgaria, including private hospitals, are publicly funded, but the criteria for allocation and expenditure are unclear and there are no legal controls to ensure that the funds are used correctly. This form of management has, over the past decades, turned many doctors and hospital directors into millionaires, while other workers in the sector are paid miserable wages, lower than the average wage in Bulgaria. It is for these and other reasons that nurses have been working for more than a year under the motto : „Health is NOT a commodity, it is a matter of national safety and common law! Saving lives and caring for people is our goal. Not profits!“ Demonstrations and strikes in the health sector have been going on for over a year. From this wave of protest and in the face of the immobility of the existing unions, a new autonomous union was born: the Bulgarian Nurses‘ Union (SBMS). The union, which is also composed of midwives, physiotherapists and stretcher-bearers, is fighting for decent wages and working conditions, as well as for an end to the trade in human health from which we all suffer. A few months ago, Pirogov’s director tried to disrupt the creation of a SBMS branch in his establishment by launching disciplinary proceedings against the branch president, Boyka Anastasova. Today, the management is using unworthy and desperate actions to crush the rebel health workers. A signal has been made to the police against the main organizers of the SBMS, who have been summoned and questioned. From the questions asked, we understand that the police are the last mediator of ‘social dialogue’. It determines which union is „legal“ and which is not. It turns out that they have the right to ask for lists of union members and to decide which claims are legitimate, calling the rest „blackmail“ against respectable employers…. We were already used to the use of law enforcement to intimidate dissidents, but this attack against women health professionals is just intolerable! We will protect our friends and colleagues of the SBMS by any means necessary. We call on the public to react to this outrageous situation! We demand the immediate suspension of Pirogov Hospital Director Asen Baltov! Police officers who have violated the Constitution and acted arbitrarily must be suspended from duty and investigated! We call on trade unions in Europe and worldwide to take a position on this case and to protest against the repression of Bulgarian health professionals! Solidarity, struggle, dignity!“