After a number of suspicious delays by the Albanian court, the National Union of Contact Centers, or “Solidarity” (Sindikata Kombëtare e Qendrave të Kontaktit, “Solidariteti”) was legally recognized as workers’ representative in the fast-growing call center industry there.
Workers filed papers with the Albanian courts in February to establish their union, but until now, their application was met with unnecessary information requests and other stall-tactics that the union believed violated ILO conventions regarding freedom of association and local labor standards.
The union was forced to re-file its application for recognition on June 15, and did so with a worker protest outside of the Tirana courthouse. Solidarity received notification June 24 that their demand for recognition was granted.
The union wrote on its Facebook page:
“This is amazing news for every worker of the call center sector. Each operator today owns the most important weapon to fight for his/her rights in the workplace. The union, in which we will all engage and struggle.
“We urge all call center workers to join and build one of the most powerful unions in our sector and in Albania . We are stronger and more powerful with you.”
Contact centers are increasing their footprint in the Albanian economy, and it is estimated that 7 percent of formalized workforce—or 30,000 workers—is employed in the Italian-language contact centres.
Leaders from Italian telecommunications unions SLC-CGIL and FISTEL-CISL stood with the Albanian workers throughout this process.
“We can no longer only think about Italian contact centre workers and Italian working conditions because this is a global industry. Workers’ problems in Albania and workers’ problems in Italy are closely tied together, and a multinational approach is the only way we will solve these issues,” Marco Del Cimmuto and Giorgio Serao for Italian unions SLC-CGIL and FISTel-CISL, respectively, said when the union was launched.
Citing issues such as degrading working conditions, arbitrary account assignment, and unjust disciplinary practices, contact centre employees at French outsourcing giant Teleperformance helped launch the sector-wide organising campaign in 2018.
Teleperformance is the largest contact centre employer globally, and in Albania, more than 2,000 of its employees provide outsourced customer service for some of the world’s most recognizable companies. Other key employers in the sector include Alba Call and IDS.
“Solidarity is more than the name of this union, but a guiding principle it has demonstrated over this protracted legal fight for recognition,” said Teresa Casertano, Head of UNI ICTS. “This recognition is a tremendous victory, and it promises to be the first of many for call center workers in Albania.”