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Albanian hydroelectric workers protest unfair dismissals

10 June, 2021Workers at the Ulëz and Shkopet hydroelectric plants of Kürüm International have taken strike action after the company used restructuring plans to dismiss workers in violation of the collective agreement.

The hydroelectric plants are among four acquired by Turkish-based Kürüm Holdings from the Albanian government in a privatization deal in 2013. Since buying the power plants for €110 million, Kürüm has reduced the workforce by 120, leaving only 43 workers. The power plants are the only major source of employment in the region, a scenic area with national parks and lakes.

The company promised that there would be no more dismissals and further staff reduction would be through attrition, not replacing those who retire. Most of the workers at the power plants have 30 years of service, and many are close to retirement.

However, on 22 May 2021, the dismissal of 20 mechanics and electricians was finalized, in violation of their collective agreement.

Union members block the access road to the plant

The workers have staged daily protests, picketing the plants and sometimes blocking roads. The say that because the restructuring “leaves them without bread”, they will escalate the protest to a hunger strike if necessary. The company responded by persecuting the union committee and suspending those who took part in strike action.

The workers are represented by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Trade Union Federation of Industrial Workers of Albania (FSPISH). Trade union activists have travelled from across Albania to join the pickets. The general secretary of the FSPISH, Taf Koleci, said:

“We call on the owner to come and sit down with the union and agree to immediately cancel the workers' dismissal.”

The general secretaries of IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union, Valter Sanches and Luc Triangle, wrote to the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, saying:

“We call on the Government of Albania to intervene immediately at Kürüm International to guarantee the implementation and full respect of the collective agreement signed in 2019 by our affiliate, the Trade Union Federation of Industrial Workers of Albania, and the company, and achieve the reinstatement of all the workers, who have been unfairly dismissed.”

Kürüm is primarily and iron and steel producer, with extensive operations in the Balkans and southern Europe. The hydroelectric plants, which date from the 1950s and operate profitably