Workers’ rights in Albania – Triggering self-organization (2016)
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 (verified from the recent interviews with 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 is the primary objective of the ongoing 2015th project funded by RLS SEE, which will enable us to tackle ideological hegemony of neoliberal public discourse in Albania.
However, ICSE considers this project proposal for the 2016 as a continuation of the ongoing project, but with a narrower geographical radius of operation and on specific working profiles like (textile, call centre and mining) aiming to analyze and interpret more deeply the important data, which partially will be collected from the ongoing project. Moreover, strengthening the existing networks (aimed in 2015) and building new ones through direct contact with workers and working students is the second project objective. Finally, foster workers to engage into self-organized structures and build a platform to help workers to organize and struggle for their rights is our third objective.
Project implementation is based on a participatory approach and direct contact with full-time workers, precarious workers and students. More concretely, there will be interviews and questionnaires, focus groups, workshops, seminars and thematic events, not only to gather and interpret the workers’ perspective on their condition, but as well establish close contacts with them and build networks. Printing and distribution of leaflets, and research study, 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.