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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Albania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Albania, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52caaa1e.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 3,200,000
Capital: Tirana
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 August the police forced the two national confederations out of their offices, causing damage to trade union property. There were reports of employers' anti-union behaviour and persecution of trade unionists who disclosed the use of child labour in the companies.

Trade union rights in law

Basic rights protected: 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.

Dismissal because of trade union membership is prohibited and victims are 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 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 is compulsory in the essential services.

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.

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 nonessential 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 and Violations in 2007

Background: Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with high unemployment, widespread poverty and a serious problem of corruption. 40 000 children are working instead of attending school, mostly in connection to subcontracted shoes and clothing production (in 2006, textile, leather, garment and footwear production accounted for just over half of total Albanian exports). Trade unions, particularly in the education sector, are working hard to combat child labour. In June over two hundred chrome miners and their families protested on the steps of the Albanian parliament against the disastrous conditions in the sector, which claimed four workers' lives just over the first half of the year.

Trade union offices destroyed: Last year, this Survey told the story of two ITUC affiliates – BSPSH and KSSH – who were prevented from entering their headquarters. This year, following a court decision on property restitution, the situation became even worse. On the morning of 1 August, the police entered the trade union offices in the centre of Tirana and forcibly removed trade union property, destroying office equipment and documents in the process. The intrusion took place without giving notice, and the staff of BSPSH and KSSH were not allowed to enter the building to salvage trade union possessions. Trade unionists were trying to liaise with the government in order to find a quick solution for the continuation of their work, but they were not successful.

Anti-union business: According to the Independent Trade Union of Textile, Garment and Leather Workers, employers in the textile, garment, leather and footwear sector regard trade unions as enemies. Companies have brandished the threat of relocation abroad if workers approach a union. A few members of the independent light industry and textile trade union were dismissed because they provided the union with information on home work and child labour.

Slow justice: The Labour Code provided for special arbitration tribunals and labour courts to be established already in 2003, but it has not been done so far. Trade unions report that challenging trade union rights violations in civil courts takes around three years due to the heavy workload of the courts.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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