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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Albania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Albania, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8896a3.html [accessed 21 August 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: 3,204,000
Capital: Tirana

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Many companies remain hostile to trade unions, avoiding collective bargaining, and demoting and dismissing trade union members. With extremely rare labour inspections and legal proceedings for the violation of workers' and trade union rights taking years to resolve, many workers do not dare join a union.

Background

Around 20,000 protesters gathered on the streets of Tirana on 21 January, demanding early elections after the Deputy Prime Minister resigned in a corruption scandal. The anti-government demonstrations resulted in four people killed, dozens injured and more than 100 arrested. Following the local elections on 8 May, demonstrations again broke out in a number of cities over alleged electoral fraud, while the opposition Socialist Party boycotted parliament until September. Growing tensions between the government and opposition, as well as the general climate of mistrust in state institutions, diverted attention from much-needed reforms.

Trade union rights in law

Although the labour law does not contain areas of serious concern, problems still exist. Workers are guaranteed freedom of association in the Constitution and the Labour Code, except for senior government officials. Whereas anti-union dismissals are prohibited by law, workers are not awarded effective protection as the burden of proof lies with the victim and reinstatement can only be ordered for public administration employees.

The right to strike is restricted, as civil servants, regardless of their function, are not allowed to strike. Furthermore, solidarity strikes are only permitted where the employer of the solidarity strikers has been actively supporting the other employer. The list of "essential services" where strikes are banned exceeds the ILO definition by including workers in the prison service. Also, if a strike is considered unlawful, the employer can order strikers to return to work within three days or face dismissal.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Anti-union employers: The Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (KSSH) reports that employers' anti-union behaviour is widespread, and includes transfers, demotions, wage cuts and dismissals. Many companies remain very hostile to trade unions, seeing them as an obstacle to freely managing their relationship with the workers, and try to avoid collective agreements. In some companies, trade unions are denied contact with the workers, and there have been cases of violent anti-union behaviour.

Weak law enforcement:

The Labour Inspectorate is very under-resourced, with the result that very few companies are inspected, despite numerous complaints lodged by trade unions. Labour inspectors often do not have the right professional background as they are recruited principally according to political preferences.

Workers' and trade union rights are not efficiently protected by the courts, which are overloaded and may take up to three years to review cases of anti-union harassment. Some of the judges assigned to labour cases are not specialised in labour issues.

Bad working conditions in textile and footwear sector: Violations of workers' and trade union rights are especially frequent in the textile and footwear sector, which accounts for around 35% of exports and employs around two thirds of all workers in the private non-agricultural sector. Out of approximately 100,000 workers, around 90% are young women, while child labour is not uncommon. The rate of unregistered workers in the industry is estimated at around 40%. Union membership in the sector remains very low, owing to threats of dismissal against anyone joining a union.

Trafficking and forced child labour: According to the ILO, Albania is one of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe that is most seriously affected by the problem of labour exploitation of children and trafficking. The law allows the employment of children over the age of 14 for "easy work", without, however, providing a definition of the term. Most children work in the informal sector – many of them in extremely hazardous occupations and under dangerous conditions in sectors such as agriculture, construction, shoe and clothes manufacturing and services.

Violations

Government breaches basic principles of social dialogue: The Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (KSSH) reported that the government violated established mechanisms of tripartite social dialogue, which is conducted through the National Labour Council. At the first Council session of 2011, held on 22 February, the agenda was decided unilaterally, which was against the rules of procedure. Moreover, the agenda included two bylaws on occupational health and safety which had already been adopted by the government two months earlier, without the prior tripartite consultations required by law.

Anti-strike measures in chromium mines:

Around 700 miners went on strike over pay and working conditions on 4 July, at the Bulqiza chromium mine, owned by ACR,a subsidiary of the Austrian company DCM Decometal. There have been a number of strikes in the Bulqiza mine in recent years due to poor working conditions. During the strike, the employer refused to negotiate with the trade union, and instead offered better contracts individually to a number of workers, in an effort to persuade them to stop the strike.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy applied for a court decision to ban the strike inside the mine, on the basis that the strike was damaging the mine and putting the life and health of the strikers at risk. The district Court in Dimbra ordered the strikers to leave the mine, but stated that they had the right to strike. The strike was eventually continued outside the mine until an agreement was reached with the employer at the end of September.

Although the strike was called off, the trade union remained under pressure, facing criminal charges and judicial civil proceedings. Exploiting the weakness of the Albanian Courts, the employer is seeking huge financial compensation for damages from the trade union.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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