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.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The Constitution grants everyone the right to organise for any lawful purposes. Employees, with the exception of military personnel and senior government officials, have the right to form and join trade unions . According to the Labour Code, a trade union must comprise at least 20 founding members in order to be registered.

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. However, the burden of proof rests with the victim of the unfair dismissal and reinstatement can only be ordered for public administration employees. The Council of Europe criticised this system as inadequate for preventing unfair dismissals. 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 and social dialogue: 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.

In Spring the parliament adopted the law on workers' councils, which provides for workers' representation bodies in enterprises with 20 or more employees. These bodies receive the right to be informed on a vast area of issues affecting workers and the company.

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 non-essential functions should be exempt from the prohibition. In addition, the Council of Europe criticised the general prohibition of strikes in the civil service and in electricity and water supply services.

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. According to the Council of Europe, the circumstances in which recourse to compulsory arbitration is authorised are too broad.

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 2008

Background: Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with high unemployment, widespread poverty and a serious problem of corruption. Child labour is a deep-rooted problem, which is mostly related to subcontracted production of shoes and clothing (in 2006 textile, leather, garment and footwear production accounted for just over half of total Albanian exports). In April, Albanian trade unions appealed to trade unions all over the world, though especially in countries to which Albanian goods are exported, to support them in the fight against child labour.

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 international relocation if workers approach a union.

Slow justice: The Labour Code provided for special arbitration tribunals and labour courts, but none have so far been established. Trade unions report that challenging trade union rights violations in civil courts takes around three years, due to the heavy workload of the courts.

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