Cooperative and competitive
Bulgarian cooperative Chernomorka, based in the city of Burgas, provides disabled people with job opportunities, producing clothes for babies and children.
Founded in 1950 by war invalids, Chernomorka - its name literally means ‘the woman from the Black Sea’ - employs just over 100 people, of which 80% are women and 57% have disabilities. The work assists the social integration of disabled people, reduces dependence on state handouts, improves their employability and therefore status within their communities as well as their self-esteem.
The cooperative has received around € 190 000 of EU support over five years through European Structural Funds to train workers and adapt its working environment to the special needs of people with disabilities. As Maya Marinova, the President of Chernomorka, explained, “Of course, that has had an impact on the financial situation of the cooperative. Turnover has increased by 5-10 percent a year, and we’ve taken on lots of people, including disabled workers. Before, we had 8- 10 employees on this line but now seven years later we have 30.”
“Our aim is to improve the quality of our production” continued Maya Marinova, “and at the same time make working conditions better for disabled workers. And of course to improve productivity, that’s the most important thing.” But the socially responsible aim of providing therapy through work for disabled people has remained the same.