Workers block road in Bulgarian town

Workers block road in Bulgarian town

KARDZHALI - Anatolia News Agency
Workers block road in Bulgarian town

Workers stage protests and block the road in Kardzhali Bulgaria on March 26.

Unpaid workers at the OZK lead and zinc production facility in the southern Bulgarian town of Kardzhali, with a large Turkish-origin population, staged a demonstration blocking main roads for an hour on March 26. 

The employees, 80 percent of whom are of Turkish descent, have had difficulties receiving their salaries for the last three years and have only managed to be paid their wages in the past by staging protests, workers were quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency. 

The workers have again demanded to be paid immediately by the factory’s owner, Valentin Zahariev.

“It is not bearable anymore. We are on the breadline. Our debts to grocery stores have mounted. We cannot get loans and send our kids to school. For the last three years we could [only] get our salaries from Valentin Zahariev by staging protests or walking out. Apparently protests do not work anymore,” said Selahattin Sadık, who has worked at OZK for 20 years.

“Three years ago 1,500 people were working for OZK. Now only 530 of us remain. We are all starving and hopeless. Here Turks and Bulgarians all work together, experience rigors and happiness,” said Selahattin Murat, a 23-year-worker at the factory. 

The facility was closed earlier in March for “technological maintenance.” The workers said they would wait in front of the facility’s main gate and block the main road every day until they received their wages.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Totyu Mladenov lent his support to the protesters, saying the employer had “held the workers hostage.” Mladenov, who has filed a criminal complaint against the company’s management, said OZK had an estimated 50 million euro debt.