Study of the conditions of the working class in Albania (2015)
For the last 23 years, since the fall of the so-called “communist” regime, Albania has been pursuing a neoliberal socio-economical restructuring, where traits of what Naomi Klein refers to as “shock doctrine” can be found. A massive and continuous wave of privatizations have swept almost all factories and publicly owned facilities, followed by a vast deindustrialization of the economy which produced a great number of precarious workers and unemployed (the last being officially around 21% of the work force, but more implicit methods bring it to more than 40%). As a result of this, as well as the neoliberal axiom of the necessity to attract foreign investors, the working conditions have deteriorated dramatically to the point where deaths and injuries of workers (mostly miners and construction workers) reported on the news have become a commonplace phenomenon. Safety measures, longer hours of work, minimum wage, collective contracts etc., are not always respected according to the labor laws in force.
The right to unionize is negated to most factory workers, but unionizing in general has become a worthless practice due to the fictitious and corrupt role played by the existing trade-unions bureaucracy.
The same conditions described above apply to the new wave of youth employment in call-centers, which for the moment appears to be the only exhaust valve for the rising number of youth unemployment, reduced from an inadequate higher education system in Albania.
What is more, due to neoliberal hegemony, these issues are totally obliterated from public discourse. Terms like ‘worker’, ‘working class’, ‘precariat’ etc., are considered reactionary and reminiscent of the communist past.
For Organizata Politike and the Institute for Critique and Social Emancipation the question of the working conditions and workers in general, is of a paramount importance. We identify as an acute problem the lack of data that would enable us painting a broader picture of the conditions of the working class, and this we consider to be the primary objective of this project, which will enable us to tackle ideological hegemony of neoliberal public discourse in Albania.
Through the critical analysis of official data, media reports and quantitative and qualitative research methods, i.e. interviews and questionnaires, we aim to gather and interpret the necessary information. The direct interviews and filling of questionnaires will also allow us to get the workers’ perspective on their condition as well as establish close contact with them, who are the exclusive target group and the main beneficiary of this project, and, hopefully, build workers’ cooperation networks aiming for future struggles.
The publication of the data and analysis, workshops, photo exhibitions, screening of the documentaries, and a number of talks from organizations from the Balkan region dealing with similar issues, will also try to reintroduce the issue to the general public and constitute a definite step towards workers’ empowerment, and ultimately to their realization of the need for self-organization and resistance to the neoliberal socio-economical restructuring.