May 1 - the holiday of unemployed workers of our country

The first day of May, which marks the International Workers’ Day, this year finds Kosovars again facing major problems in terms of human rights, safety and health in the workplace violations. Our country continues to record the highest level of unemployment in Europe. Moreover, current trends give no indication that things will change in the near future. The high level of unemployment is one of the factors that makes May 1st less important for Kosovars. 

Beside the high percentage of unemployed, which is about 35.3%, even those who are lucky enough to have a job face huge problems in their workplaces, particularly so those working in the private sector. Only in 2015 it was reported that 9 people were killed and 45 workers were injured as a result of workplace accidents due to unsafe working conditions.

Findings from the survey conducted by the Kosovar Stability Initiative on labour and employment in Kosovo report a very worrisome situation. About 30% of respondents who are employed have claimed to be employed in a informal way (without employment contracts). In absence of this basic document that regulates work relations and the rights of signatory parties, employees cannot demand any of their rights from the employer. It also means that for these employees the pension contributions are not paid and that their employers are evading taxation. Even when employees have contracts, claiming the rights guaranteed to them by law is unlikely in practice.  Slow processing by the judiciary system of cases dealing with violations of labour rights has been a very discouraging factor for pursuing legal ways for resolving labour disputes.

One of the most frequent violations of workers’ rights in the private sector regards with work schedules and holidays. While the Labour Law guarantees a forty-hour workweek, in practice many companies oblige their employees to work six days a week (forty-eight hours) without any additional compensation, as required by law. Work during holidays is also rarely compensated to the employees with additional remuneration as stipulated in that same law.

The International Workers Day this year finds women in Kosovo in an equally undesirable situation due to the significant discrimination they continue to face in the labour market, especially in the private sector. Findings from IKS’ survey, show that the labour market in Kosovo favors men, who record a greater presence in the active workforce, as well as the tendency to remain stable in their jobs, dominating positons of long term employment.

Another reason for dissatisfaction among unemployed Kosovar workers should be the loss of confidence in the institutions of public vacancy announcements and competitions. Field data indicates a lack of interest and loss of confidence among the unemployed to use formal ways of job application.

Nepotism and personal network of contacts are believed to be the most important attributes and general prerequisites to get a job in Kosovo, both in the private and public sector. This perception is very harmful because it increases labour market inactivity. Nevertheless, only 2.9% of employees surveyed by IKS said that they have found the work through friends and/or relatives.

Kosovar employees have these and many other valid reasons to protest on May 1st, 2016.  Not only the unemployed, but also those who are employed and face numerous problems in the workplace, ranging from safety at work to the daily violations, rather than celebrating unemployment and violations of the law, they should raise their voice and work towards the fulfillment of their rights, not only on May 1st but every day of the year.