Monday, February 24, 2020

ALBANIA - Repression against struggling mine workers

February 24, 2020
The Trade Union of United Mineworkers of Bulqiza (Albania) announced its formation on 17 November 2019. Five days later, the chairman of the union was dismissed by the company AlbChrome, part of a very big corporation and the biggest mine company operating in the region. In response, the workers boycotted work and started a strike demanding the reinstatement of the union leader and an end to worker repression, as well as higher wages. In the days that followed, other union leaders and activists were temporarily detained and interrogated by the police. On December 2, AlbChrome fired another member of the union executive committee. Because of the attacks of the employer and the police, as well as under a total media blackout, the union decided to close their strike with the promise by the local labour inspectorate that the issue of the dismissal of trade unionists will be taken up by them.

Although the export revenues from chromium reach over 100 million euros per year, families in Bulqiza are amongst the poorest in Albania. Meanwhile, the attacks on the union have continued. On December 12, another member of the union executive committee was given a warning of dismissal and demoted to another work position. At the start of the year, after a series of accidents in the mines, a local activist who supported the miners was attacked and police arrested people who were distributing leaflets denouncing the mining company. They used the argument that they would "cause panic" and "disturb public order". The workers struggle for their democratic right of freedom of association and collective bargaining. They see that only in their collective action they can defend their rights and struggle for their interests.

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