March 22, 2016 | Tuesday

EU Talks: Labour Law Reform in Kosovo: An Update on the Social Dialogue

The EU Information and Cultural Centres in Pristina and North Mitrovica launched the bi-monthly campaign EU is about Rule of Law and Economic Empowerment in February, with a number of activities.

The EU Talks panel discussion on Labour law reform in Kosovo and update on the social dialogue featured panelists: Arban Abrashi, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Kushtrim Shaipi, Coordinator of the EU-funded project Support to Social Partners from Kosovo Stability Initiative (KSI), Haxhi Arifi, Chair of the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo and Petrit Balija, Representative of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce. The panelists discussed the role of key stakeholders in the Social and Economic Council and the process of social dialogue in Kosovo, particularly regarding the implementation of the Labour Law and General Collective Agreement at the national level, as vital prerequisites for economic prosperity but also implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) and the National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA).

Kushtrim Shaipi from the Kosovo Stability Initiative (KSI) presented findings from the recent survey on citizen perceptions and opinions on the social state, to be published in March. The report shows that most citizens do not have information on social policies. Another important element in these findings was the fact that citizens consider the need to raise taxes as a crucial prerequisite in order to improve the budget for social services. Mr. Shaipi emphasized that according to this survey citizens do not believe that social assistance will lead to the eradication of poverty.

Minister Abrashi presented updates on the social dialogue and the reforms enacted, particularly in legislation, by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW).  The Minister provided information on the amount of funds allocated for pensions, how many citizens benefit from the pension scheme and the recent increase of 25% to this budget. One key reform recently enacted now enables municipalities to generate funds for their own social services. However, the Minister concluded that he sees a reliance on social welfare potentially discouraging citizens from finding employment in the long-term. The Minister welcomed the type of research conducted by KSI as that will help the government make well-informed decisions as per citizens’ expectations regarding social policies. He presented the new MLSW initiative limiting basic pensions to only citizens residing in Kosovo, a move that will save nearly 20 million euros which can then be reallocated to other social support schemes.

The chair of the Union of Independent Trade Unions, Haxhi Arifi, spoke on the challenges of implementation of the Labour law and General Collective Agreement, particularly the need for harmonization. “Due to the small number of labour inspectors it is very difficult to monitor the implementation of law and collective agreement particularly when it comes to the private sector” stressed Mr. Arifi. He appealed to the Minister to increase the number of labour inspectors. Some criticism by Mr. Arifi was addressed to the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce which represents the business community, in particular in regard to the implementation of labour law and collective agreement as being selective based on the business’s willingness to respect the signed agreements.

The same opinion was not shared by Petrit Balija, the representative of Chamber of Commerce who believes that all businesses should be offered a choice whether or not they want to implement the collective contract based upon their human resources and revenue. Kosovo is characterized by small and medium sized businesses hence many cannot comply with the requirements deriving from the collective agreement as other European countries.

Members of the audience raised many questions on the topic while expressing their dissatisfaction with partial implementation of both the labour law and collective agreements. Besa Luzha, from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, pointed out that no business should be exempted from abiding with the agreement once that has been signed, suggesting categorization of employment sectors by European conventions. “I opt for modification and adjustment of collective agreements per sector not per business, different types of work have different requirements therefore the agreement should be amended and renegotiated between the employers and the employees, meanwhile the government has done its work by agreeing with basic provisions of the agreement” said Ms. Luzha.

The EUICC in Pristina and North Mitrovica will continue with the campaign, EU is about Rule of Law and Economic Empowerment, with movie screenings, Master Classes and EU Talks through the month of March.
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