Big troubles- small salaries

Technical workers of high schools in Prishtina are being discriminated - they get a salary of only 120 euro per month (less than the minimum wage) and they do not have work contracts. Their wages are almost always late; often they wait up to three months.

Despite these violations, companies “AB” and “MSS”, contracted from the Municipality of Prishtina, continue with their work and keep winning tenders. The protest of more than 50 workers from these companies has started last year; in some cases there were also strikes.

In cases when workers boycotted their job so as to ask for higher wages and for working contracts, pupils and teachers cleaned the schools themselves. One of the companies raised wages by only 20 euros. 

Protests of workers are organized by the Independent Trade Union of the Private Sector of Kosovo (SPEVZ/ITUSBC), which is the only to still raise the voice for these workers. Nevertheless, it looks like its powers are diminishing

On the other hand, Shpend Ahmeti, in a letter sent to the leader of the private sector trade union, Jusuf Azemi, has rejected the possibility of the municipality taking over additional obligations for these workers. According to Ahmeti, from the moment of contracting, the Municipality of Prishtina is responsible only for the implementation of the contract and for ensuring the implementation of the Law on Labor. The municipality cannot increase wages in the private sector, because this, according to him, contradicts both the law and the contracts signed for services.

However, the head of SPEVZ/ITUSBC has stated that it’s not true that the municipality does not have competencies to raise wages for these workers; according to him, they are workers of the municipality. “[…] the company pays the workers proportionally to what the municipality pays the company”, stated Azemi.

Now, these workers are asking for a collective contract. In the protest of this month, technical workers of “Pjeter Bogdani”, “Asim Vokshi”, “Ismajl Qemali”, “Dardania” and “Elena Gjika” elementary schools, and their colleagues from all Family Medicine Centers in the capital were supported by the private sector union of Kosova. According to the organizers, the protest was held so as to stop the pressure from “MSS” cleaning company, which was contracted from the municipality of Prishtina for the maintenance of these buildings.

The head of the union announced a strike after this protest. He stated that with some of the companies contracted for cleaning they have reached an understanding, while with other they failed to do so. Some of the companies have responded to the union and have engaged in a dialogue for the solution of these problems, while others have neither met with them, nor responded. In addition, according to him, some of these companies continue to pay their workers in contradiction with the Law on Labor.  “MSS” company, which operates at a national level, pays a lot of workers only 120 euro per month, which is in conflict with the laws in force. This protest was held at the request of union associations of these workers”, stated Azemi.

Rrustem Sejdiu, a technical worker at the “Asim Vokshi” elementary school in the capital, has stated that the collective contract is foreseen by law. “The cause of the protest is the implementation of the collective contract. Just like education workers have it, we deserve the collective contract too. We have started with a protest, if nothing is done we will hold a meeting with the union and if it’s necessary we will proceed with strikes. Our wages were raised during strikes last year, they became 240 euro. The contract was signed for one year; however, we’re now asking for the collective contract”, stated Sejdiu.

On the other hand, despite the increase in the cost of living, the minimum wage in Kosova continues to be the lowest in the region. It has not changed since 2011, and at the same time it is categorized based on age: for workers younger than 35 it is 130 euro, for those above 35 is 170 euro. Unionists continue to reject both the amount of this wage and the categorizing of the employees.

“We as BSBK (UITUK) have never accepted the categorization of the minimum wage, however, the government has issued an administrative decision for its implementation in Kosovo for a period of three years”, stated the Deputy President of UITUK, Alush Sejdiu, who announced that this issue will be discussed in the next meetings of the Social Economic Council.

Similarly, the head of Kosovo Business Alliance, Agim Shahini, has also stated that within this year this issue needs to be debated, and it should be analyzed whether the increase of the minimum wage would be a burden for the private sector and/or would increase informality. “It cannot be divided in categories because it loses its effect. We thought that this division would encourage the age categories, but later we realized it was not so”.

This year, the Social Economic Council is being lead by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Arban Abrashi, who still has not made any statements on this issue. The minimum wage in Kosovo is determined from the government with the proposal of Social Economic Council at the end of each year for the upcoming year. The minimum wage is mandatory for both domestic and international employers. Its value is determined by taking into account the cost of living expenses, the unemployment rate, the general situation of the labor market, and the rate of competition and productivity in Kosovo.

 

Gur Kalaja
Prishtinë, May 2015