Thousands of Bulgarian public-sector employees rallied Wednesday to demand government action to help the working poor, as angry students kept up a protest calling for the cabinet's resignation.
Waving purple labor-union flags, several thousand miners, civil servants, doctors, nurses, teachers and metallurgy and energy-sector employees marched on parliament carrying large banners with slogans such as "STOP misery" and "We do not want lifelong labor for miserable pensions."
The workers' rally merged with a daily protest by about 1,000 students outside parliament who have been calling for Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski to resign, posing a new headache for the embattled leader of the European Union's poorest member.
Oresharski has come under continuous street pressure to resign over the past five months, with the students' movement giving new impetus to the rallies in the past four weeks.
Bitter anti-poverty street rallies turned violent last winter, and several people set themselves on fire in desperation, forcing the conservative cabinet to resign in February.
Oresharski's technocrat government took office in May, but quickly sparked even bigger street rallies, as critics accused it too of corruption and links to the oligarchy.
Shouts of "Resignation" were heard Wednesday as the workers' rally and student protest joined together outside parliament, which was protected by metal fences and tight police cordons.
The students claim the political class is too corrupt and catering too much to big business.
The public-sector workers meanwhile called on the government to raise their salaries by 10 percent, protect their right to early retirement and pay them regularly -- they complain they are often not paid on time or in full.
They also demanded tax rebates next year for more than 460,000 employees receiving the minimum monthly salary of 340 leva (174 euros, $235).
A recent study by the KNSB trade union, which organised Wednesday's rally, found that 27 percent of all people employed in Bulgaria -- about 600,000 people -- were working poor.
Oresharski's government said earlier this week it was ready to discuss paying back the 10-percent flat income tax to the lowest-paid in early 2015.
The average monthly salary in Bulgaria is just 400 euros ($541), and the average pension just 150 euros ($203).
A Gallup poll found this week that 70 percent of Bulgarians were pessimistic about the future and 49 percent wanted the new cabinet to go.