My wish list for positive change in Kosovo is quite long, but I want to focus on a central wish relating to workers’ rights. The issue of workers’ rights confronts me every time I step out of my home. It is of crucial importance affecting me and my peers.
In a job market that offers little and where the competition for jobs is high, one thing that is widely known is the differences in working conditions between the public and private sectors in Kosovo. While many countries across Europe have made the dividing line between the public and private sector almost invisible when it comes to respecting workers’ rights, in Kosovo this dividing line is only growing more stark.
We often hear how many job seekers dream of getting a job in the public sector because of greater job security and generally better working conditions. At the same time, we hear expressions like “that’s how the private sector is” whenever people in the private sector face late payment of salaries, denials of annual leave and other violations in the workplace.
The public sector is considered the ideal sector and the private sector its opposite. These expressions we hear in our daily life are, in fact, based on something. They are based on the experiences of workers who, in the absence of institutional commitment to protect their rights, are forced to work in harsh conditions just to survive.
Between the private and public
An administrative worker in the public sector receives an above-average salary in Kosovo and rests on weekends and official holidays –– which are frequent in Kosovo. They have a fixed eight hour work day and with a one hour break during the day. Such a worker gets to take annual leave according to the Labor Law, as well as medical leave when necessary. They are compensated for their contributions and work experience. Simply, such a worker is the beneficiary of the labor laws of the country.
A worker in the private sector –– it could be a construction worker, a salesperson, a laborer –– often receives a below-average salary, gets breaks only when the employer allows it, has an unpredictable schedule, may not be officially registered as an employee and often does not receive pension contributions. Especially in cases where the work involves situations that endanger the physical well-being of the employee, such workers often aren’t provided with health insurance and must carry the burden of accidents and injury on their own.
The situations above represent two diametrically opposed realities. Both realities exist in Kosovo, where the same law and a set of rules should be applied. While the law is the authority in the public sector, the employer often replaces the law in the private sector.
The government must intervene to end the exploitative experience of workers in the private sector. The longer this intervention is delayed, the more the constantly mistreated workforce is forced to remain outside the labor market or to seek better work conditions outside Kosovo.
We often speak of leaving Kosovo, the youth more than anyone, but we unfortunately don’t speak as often about solving the problems that encourage us to leave.
Of course, the list of problems that lead to emigration is very long, but among the main reasons is the fact that the public sector is already overcrowded, and to work in the public sector in Kosovo people often have to wait for years for a position to open up. Meanwhile, the private sector continues to mistreat workers and suffocates their desire to work in Kosovo.
In the future, I would like to change the circumstances that enable the mistreatment of workers in the private sector, for example, the low minimum wage and the lack of inspections of businesses and private enterprises. Now is the time to create suitable employment conditions because in Kosovo there is no shortage of jobs as much as there is a lack of workers’ rights.
Feature Image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.