Unjust dismissals

Incidents of manipulations at the expense of employees are still very common in Kosovo. This is not so much because of an incomplete legal infrastructure, rather than the result of willful misinterpretation of laws or regulations related to labor relations.

It often happens that people get fired for nonsense reasons, while on the other hand lots of violations occur in institutions. Dismissals are mainly occurring due to political and party affiliations. This is the logical conclusion since the institutional authorities fail to provide explanations to successive termination of workers.

Similar cases have been manifesting recently in the municipality of Pristina. Many people with long experience in public administration, but also young and newly-trained staff have been let go. This was mainly the case at the Department of Property and Finance of Prishtina, but also in other directorates, such as the Cadaster one.

Three young men, B.K., I.K., and N.A., were fired from the Department of Property and Finance at the end of June. All in their thirties, the three were hired in 2012 through a USAID project. Along with them, 10 other people were hired as well. All were trained and certified on the collection of property tax. 

However, through inappropriate, and almost evil, methods, the municipality made it very difficult for them to stay in their workplace. Initially they were toyed with: they were hired for about two years on a “service contract”, an “unknown” legal categorization since there is no such designation in the Labour Law.  

Article 10 of the Labour Law, which since 2004 has been amended 3 times, explains that the labour contract is made in written form and can last over an indefinite period, or over a specified period, or finally, can be entered into for specific tasks. Contracts for specific tasks can be no longer than 120 days within a year. So, the law does not identify “service contracts”.

All thirteen trainees have worked on “service contracts” from 2012 up to the first 4 months of 2014. As it can be noticed, the authorities of the Municipality of Pristina, during both governmental mandates, have intentionally used this type of contracts. They must have certainly been aware that the term “service contract” is not found in the Law, and as such, potential violations could easily be circumvented – a clear violation of the law, as well as of human rights. These young people worked for two years under these contracts, and then were dismissed under the promise that vacancies would be announced; thus they could compete and win back their position. But when the competitions took place, they all were rejected.

Some weeks ago, following complaints about violations and selection of unskilled workers, the Independent Observing Committee for Civil Servants annulled a competition. While in another competition, the selected ones were hired under one-year contracts, designated as “trial period”, which will result in them being fired at the end of this period.

This was also the case for the three young people who were fired at the end of June 2015.  Pristina authorities argue that “they had contracts for a trial period and the contract was not interrupted,” as stated by the director of the Directorate from where the three were terminated. “This is what usually happens: the trial period either expires or results in a full employment,” continued the director, adding that in that directorate 7 people were employed with “service contracts”. 

The declaration of this director on the duration of the trial period is also a violation of the Labour Law. The law certainly recognizes the trial period, which is defined in the labour contract, but this contracting categorization cannot least more than six months.

The abusive aspect of this kind of dismissal reaches its culmination when within the institutions there are reports that praise the performance of the employees that were fired, citing concrete figures for achievements. These leads the terminated employees feeling that their dismissal is purely based on subjective reasons, most likely related to political beliefs.

“There is no other reason of our dismissal from work but political and party motives”, said B.K., presenting to the media work reports, signed by their supervisor, were their activity appears significantly more productive than that of many other workers. “They fired me after three years because during this time I didn’t become a member of the ruling party”, he continues. This doubt is shared by two of his former colleagues as well.

Reports by Pristina authorities show that only in the above-mentioned Department, in a period of less than 9 months, 9 people were fired, including the three to whom we spoke. Two were returned to their position by the Independent Observing Committee for Civil Servants, while others are in process. The situation is complicated even more by the fact that the Municipality of Pristina currently has 89 employees under “service contracts”. This was a cause for concern even for the fired ones, who are very confident that they suffered an injustice and they were right in complaining to the authorities.

Emine Klaiqi
Pristina, July 2015