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News 27 Sep 17

Albania Unions Demand Hike in Minimum Wage

Unions in Albania are calling for a significant rise in the minimum wage, saying the current amount is too little to cover the basic cost of living. 

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
KSSH during a protest in Tirana. Photo: kssh.org

Albania's Confederation of Trade Unions, KSSH, is pressuring the government to raise the minimum wage by 17 percent within a year, alongside other requests that would improve the conditions of working people.

KSSH chief Kol Nikollaj told BIRN that they intend to use any democratic means in order to achieve this objective.

"On World Day for Decent Work, on October 7 around 200 representatives of our organisation are going to gather in Tirana and protest. Other protests will follow if our requests are not taken into consideration," he said.

Together with the request to raise the minimum wage from 24,000 lek [180 euros] a month to 28,000 lek [209 euros], the union demanded collective contracts, together with the approval of special status for miners and metal workers.

When it comes to the minimum wage, the government already raised it in May by 9 per cent as result of it not being adjusted since 2013.

However, for the KSSH this is still not enough. According to the Institute of Statistics, the number of those employed in Albania in 2016 was 1,042,810, of whom 164,635 work in the public sector and the 878,175 others in the private sector.

Nikollaj told BIRN that according to their research, the majority of those working in the private sector earned only the minimum wage.

"We have whole important sectors like the garment industry ... call centres, tourism and private security services where the overwhelming majority of workers are paid a minimum wage," he said.

Albania has a low minimum wage compared with other countries in the region. According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, in 2015, the minimum wage in Serbia was 235 euros. In Macedonia, it was 213 euros and in Montenegro, 288 euros.

The low minimum wage makes it difficult for many families in Albania to have a decent living. A study presented in October 2016 by Albania's Ombudsman in collaboration with the Albanian Centre for Economic Research suggests that the basic cost of living per person in Albania was 16,000 lek [120 euros].

The average wage in Albania, according to statistics in 2016, was 54,487 lek [407 euros].

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