This summer, a group of miners in Albania’s richest chrome mine in Bulqiza staged a spectacular strike. Ten miners barricaded themselves 1400 meters, nearly one mile, underground and refused to eat and drink. The workers’ drastic measure followed earlier protests both at their own mine in the north and in the capital Tirana. After 23 days of underground protest, ten miners replaced the first weakened crew, continuing the hunger strike to express opposition to low wages, unsafe working conditions, poor management, and the lack of investment in the mine in general. The hunger strike was part of a three month long work stoppage by some 700 Albanian miners. But Albania is no Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. While being one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries, it has been dealing with slowing economic growth and weak political leadership beyond the attention of the global media. The miners don’t seem to be the vanguards of a civil rebellion, but rather the players in an act overshadowed by an ongoing fight between two political parties and their leaders. DeliberatelyConsidered asked Ermira Danaj, an Albanian participant in the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies’ Democracy and Diversity Institute, for a report. – Esther Kreider-Verhalle
DC: Were any of the miners’ demands met?
Ermira Danaj: This time, the miners have won, but it is one of the very few victories for workers fighting for their rights. The owners of the mine promised to continue investments in the mine, in a transparent manner. They also agreed to improve working conditions, to pay a 13 month wage, to pay the workers for half the period they were on strike, and a wage increase of 20%. During the first hunger strike, miners from other regions and workers from other sectors, facing the same problems, had started showing their solidarity with the miners. This was very unusual. After a regional court had decided that the protesters had to leave the mine, the miners . . .