One of the campaign promises made by Bulgaria's GERB party before the July 2009 parliamentary elections and a mainstay of its cost-cutting programme after forming the government was the reduction of the public administration.
To date, the Cabinet is yet to meet its self-imposed target because of the enormous amount of leave days accumulated by civil servants, who cannot be dismissed without their outstanding leave being paid.
Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov said that as of November 2009, the total sum of compensation due to employees of ministries was about 400 million leva, without taking into account employees of state agencies overseen by the Cabinet.
In the Agriculture Ministry, which alone has outstanding leave that would cost 30 million leva in compensation, some civil servants had accumulated up to 300 days each, media reports said. A signature case that has become the most-cited example of the problem is the executive director of the Hail Suppression Agency at the ministry, who had accumulated 220 days of paid leave, worth 18 000 leva.
The Cabinet's solution for the quandary is to amend the Labour Code and Civil Servants Act, requiring all outstanding leave to be cleared by the end of 2011 or be lost. In instances of employees being fired, they would receive the rest of their paid leave for the year and up to 10 days from the outstanding leave owed for previous years.
The amendments would affect the private sector and most of the state administration, with three notable exceptions: employees of the interior and justice ministries, as well as military personnel. All three categories are subject to their own regulatory acts and are not covered by the Labour Code or Civil Servants Act.
Because law enforcement employees, magistrates and the military receive preferential treatment, the average yearly paid leave in those sectors is 60 days, three times the default amount in the private sector, according to Snezhana Slavcheva, director for industrial relations at Bulgarian Industrial Association, one of the country's biggest employer associations. Other civil servants get, on average, about 40 days paid leave a year, she said, as quoted by Kapital weekly.