2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Albania
|Publisher||International Trade Union Confederation|
|Publication Date||9 June 2007|
|Cite as||International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Albania, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca48c.html [accessed 13 March 2014]|
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182
Basic trade union rights are recognised in the law; however, union activities are frequently obstructed. Strike restrictions in the civil service and public utilities are too broad by international standards. In June the two national confederations faced eviction from their offices – a step which warranted protests from the international trade union movement.
Trade union rights in law
Freedom of Association: The Constitution grants everyone the right to organise for any lawful purposes. Employees have the right to form and join trade unions in full freedom to defend their occupational and employment interests. Military personnel and senior government officials do not have the right to organise. According to the Labour Code, a trade union must comprise at least 20 founding members in order to be registered.
Protection against anti-union harassment: The Labour Code provides a number of guarantees against anti-union discrimination. Dismissal because of the trade union membership is prohibited and the victim is entitled to compensation equivalent to one year's pay, on top of other compensations that may be due. Employers who put pressure on workers not to join a union can face fines of up to 50 times the monthly minimum wage.
Collective bargaining: The right to bargain collectively at the enterprise and sector level is recognised by the Labour Code. The government cannot interfere in these negotiations. National-level negotiations only take place in the tripartite National Labour Council, but it has not functioned since the change of government.
The Minister of Labour may extend a sector-level collective agreement to all the employers in the sector concerned. If the parties fail to reach agreement, they may take advantage of mediation or arbitration procedures. Arbitration only takes place if both parties agree to it, with the exception of essential services, where arbitration is compulsory.
The trade union with the most members in a given sector of activity or a given company is considered the most representative. The law allows employers and their organisations to refuse to sign a collective agreement if a trade union is not representative. Trade union representativeness is to be proved by a notarised certificate of total membership, which trade unions should obtain at their own cost.
Right to strike: The Labour Code grants trade unions the right to strike for the purpose of solving their economic and social demands. Employers are not allowed to seek outside labour to replace the striking workers.
Retaliation against those participating in a lawful strike is prohibited. If the strike is considered unlawful, the employer can issue a back-to-work order and the workers who fail to resume the work within three days can be summarily dismissed. Trade unions can be held responsible for damages caused by an unlawful strike.
Civil servants, regardless of their function, do not have the right to strike. According to the ILO, the right to strike can only be denied to civil servants exercising authority in the name of the State, or to those in essential services.
Strikes are forbidden in the essential services listed in the Labour Code: indispensable medical and hospital services, water supply services, electricity supply services, air traffic control services, services of protection from fire as well as services at prisons. These fall within the ILO definition of essential services, although the ILO also states that workers in those services performing non-essential functions should be exempt from the prohibition. Trade unions must ensure minimum services in the sectors satisfying the basic needs of population, and if there is no agreement between the employer and trade union on the scope of minimum services, the solution will be imposed by an arbitrator appointed by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.
Solidarity strikes are allowed if the employer of the solidarity strikers is actively supporting the employer whom the main strike is organised against. The ILO sees this condition as too restrictive.
Trade union rights in practice
Unfair dismissals and state interference: Trade unions report that a lot of union activists, especially local-level leaders, have been illegally dismissed or transferred due to their union activities. There were reports of state intervention into trade union activities, pressure and intimidation in the civil service, healthcare and public utilities.
Collective bargaining agreements are often not implemented.
Violations in 2006
Background: Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with high unemployment, widespread poverty and a serious problem of corruption. A number of positive political and economic reforms took place, which allowed for the signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June. The current centre-right-wing government came into power in July 2005, and the relationship between the trade unions and the authorities is difficult. Employment in the public sector is perceived to be politicised: several thousand dismissals took place in the public sector after the change of government.
Trade unions banned from their headquarters: On 21 June, police prevented officials from the two national confederations – the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Albania BSPSH and the KSSH (both affiliated to the ITUC) from gaining access to their headquarters in Tirana. This was the culmination of lengthy legal proceedings and a decision by the Albanian courts to return the trade union building to its former private owner, despite the fact that the building had belonged to the trade union movement for decades. The premises in question also hosted the headquarters of most sectoral trade union federations. Virtually all trade union work in the country was blocked as a result.
The Special Forces of the Albanian police had visited the trade unions' premises a few days earlier, on 15 June, and tried to evict the confederation and the sectoral union leaders from their offices. The police promised to return on 21 June. By 8.00 am on the 21st, the streets in front of trade union offices were blocked, preventing trade union officials from reaching their workplace. At noon, several hundred trade unionists gathered in front of the building as a protest against the police intervention. The police stayed in the area and the following day used force to prevent trade unionists' accessing the building. Mr. Ismail Meta of the Education and Science Federation was held in custody for four hours. The trade unions organised a protest rally on 26 June and a number of international trade unions sent protest letters to the Albanian authorities. The government ultimately agreed to allow the trade unions to use the buildings until the government was able to provide alternative premises.