Teachers unions and other public sector workers joined up with the long running students protests in Bulgaria yesterday. The unions are demanding a 10% pay rise, decent pensions and to be paid regularly and on time. 

Students have been protesting daily for the resignation of the centre left government, which they say is in cahoots with the rich business people to empoverish the country. Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union - the average wage is $544 a month, while the average teacher salary is less than $400 a month.

Bulgaria's economy has been laid waste by neo-liberal economic policies which mean that the previously state owned industries are now owned by oligarchs, with whom, the students say, the government is in a corrupt relation. The International Monetary Fund continues to back up the government telling them to resist calls for wage increases - meanwhile prices such as those for energy are rising sharply. The previous conservative government resigned last February after mass protests against poverty and several protesters setting themselves on fire.

In an article on the BBC website, a student tells the reporter: “There is corruption at every level in Bulgaria. And you know we, the young people, have to carry on the fight for those who are too old now to march. Because they marched for us. We have to give them hope things can change.” As well as daily demonstrations outside parliament, the students have been occupying Sofia University since October. According to the BBC, more than 75% of the Bulgarian population support the protest.

The government has responded by setting up police road blocks around the city and the protesters are met by riot police. Politically the government has suggested lifting the smoking ban in public places as a way of appeasing the protesters.

Teachers in Bulgaria were on strike earler this year to demand decent salaries.