Unions in Post-Communist Albania: Problems of Organization and Solidarity in the Times Crisis

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sonila DANAJ, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland
Erka CARO, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland
The change of the regime in the early 1990s led to the creation and the division of trade unions in Albania along the two major parties’ lines: the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party with which they shared similar ideologies. Both confederations serve as umbrella organizations for a number of federations. The main issues they have been struggling with during the transition are informal employment, an antagonizing state, and the lack of employer organizations. Scepticism towards most forms of solidary organizations at the early stages of pluralism strongly affected union membership rates, which in the long-term held unions in a relatively weak position exacerbated by the competitive attitude between them.

As Albania is preparing for EU membership, issues such as informality and the social partners have recently received considerable attention. These processes have developed in parallel with the global economic crisis and the current government’s project of economic development. The questions we ask in this paper are: What is the current state of trade unionism in Albania? How do the formalization of employment relations and the tripartite system affect their position? What is the impact of the economic crisis on the unions’ position and strategies?

In our analysis we find two contradictory trends. Formalization of employment relations and the establishment of the tripartite system create the grounds for stronger union activity. Meanwhile the government appeals to international investors from countries affected by the crisis such as Italy are based on the argument that ‘there are no trade unions here’. Meanwhile, the Albanian workforce reaction to the crisis has gone in both directions: exit through emigration as a reaction to increased poverty, and return from migration (especially in the case of Greece and partially Italy) as a reaction to increased unemployment.