“We can’t take it anymore”!

Besim D., born in 1973, lives in Podujeva and works at a Slovenian-Kosovar company in Kodra e Trimave. Even though Besim has a job, he is extremely unsatisfied with his wage and working conditions. But he, as the majority of Kosovars that work in the private sector, hesitates to talk publicly because he can lose his job.

Besim and other employees of this company work 16 hours a day, are paid only for 8 hours, and earn only 200 euros per month. While, according to the Law on Labour, each working hour outside the working schedule must be compensated…

The working schedule is sanctioned according to article 20 of the Law on Labour. The extended working schedule is allowed only in extraordinary situations and only for as long as it’s necessary.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is aware for such violations, however, its intervention is still not being felt.

“Is thereany hope for us, tell me please, because we’re fed up”, statedBesimin a message he sent me on Facebook. What can I say to him and to hundreds of Kosovar youngsters that do not have the courage to express their dissatisfaction, even though they are not being treated adequately by their employers?

Besim states that the Albanian shareholderof the company where he works corrupts labour inspectors each time they come to inspect. Besim does not know where to complain.

This situation makes me realize that the private sector unions are almost non-existent- they are objectively silent and non-effective. On the other hand, unions of the public sector “work” in favor of the government. Whereas, labour inspectors are (mainly) corrupt.

For Besim, the private sector union does not protect worker’s rights, because it is either politicized, leaning towards certain interest groups,or it is powerless.

In fact, it is precisely the Law on Labour that makes this union powerless. This law, according to legal analysts, has many loopholes as far as the private sector is concerned, and it creates the impression that it serves more the employer than the employees.

“We, as a union, are powerless to impact private companies: labour inspectors must pressure them” – stated the President of the Trade Union of the Private Sector of Kosovo, JusufAzemi.

On the other hand, public sector unions “work” in favor of the government, because their leaders are influenced by political parties.

Cases that are worth mentioning here are “the pending strike” of the jurisprudence sector, the postponement of the strike of education workers, and the suspension from work of two employees of the public broadcaster due to their union activities.

Therefore, when private companies and public institutions infringe worker’s rights, and where unions function more like a décor of a democracy rather than mechanisms which mediate and arbitrate the relationship between employees and employers, it is understandable why workers do not have the courage to talk with theidentities unveiled. This can very easily cost them with their job, which for a Kosovar translates into loss of every existential source without having someone to complain to.

As for civic consciousness, that’s unimaginable in Kosovo, where there has never been any social dialogue even though it is a legal obligation.

And for Besim D. there is nothing left to do but complaining: “We can’t take it anymore!”


Gur Kalaja
Pristina, April 2015