SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets on Friday to demand higher salaries to compensate for surging inflation that has hit the European Union’s poorest member.

The demonstration was organized by the country’s two largest trade unions. Protesters gathered in front of the parliament building holding banners and chanting requests for decent pay as winter nears.

The unions handed to parliament a joint declaration which calls for a speedy adoption of next year’s budget to avoid the risk of freezing the minimum wage at its current level despite inflation, support for large groups of people that are exposed to energy poverty before the heating season, and protection of labor rights of workers.

Marina Yovcheva, an emergency medic, had joined the protests to demand an increase of her salary.

“We are protesting because our work is hard. I am a doctor in an emergency unit and want to be paid decently for what I am doing,” she said.

Bulgaria is governed by a caretaker Cabinet with limited powers because the country is emerging from its fourth general election in less than two years. It again produced a fragmented parliament where the so far fruitless efforts to cobble together a viable coalition are about to continue the political gridlock that has gripped the country.

Lyuboslav Kostov, the top economic expert of the independent labor unions, urged legislators to do their job and form a government which will submit a state budget for next year. He explained that the new budget must include an increase of minimum wages if the country wants to join the eurozone on Jan. 1, 2024.

The protest actions continued with a procession of more than 1,000 cars, which passed along the main boulevards in the capital, Sofia, causing major traffic jams.