The union represents the 30,000-worker contact centre sector—one of the fastest growing segments of the Albanian economy.
The workers, who provide customer service for companies like Amazon, Apple, and Lottomatica in the Italian market, were joined by Italian telecoms unions at the launch.
This breakthrough in Albania is the latest sign of a trade union resurgence in Central Europe.
Albanian contact centre workers — who provide customer service for some of the world’s biggest companies — have created a new trade union.
The union, called the National Union of Contact Centers – “Solidarity”, represents the 30,000-worker-and-growing Albanian contact centre sector, which primarily services Italian-language markets.
Workers held a foundation assembly last night to launch the union and filed papers with the Albanian courts this morning to legally establish it. Contact centres are increasing their footprint in the Albanian economy, and it is estimated that 7 percent of formalized workforce is employed in the Italian-language contact centres.
“We are the voice that customers hear when they need support, and now, with our union, we have a voice at our jobs,” said Teleperformance worker leader. “Forming our new union is a historic step towards raising standards in our industry, and our employers should immediately begin negotiating a sector-wide collective agreement.”
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 companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Lottomatica. The company was previously fined by the Albanian labour ministry after workers notified authorities about incomplete social security payments.
Other key employers in the sector include Alba Call and IDS.
The workers’ organising efforts were supported Albanian non-governmental organization the Institute for Critique and Social Emancipation (ICSE) and UNI Global Union, a federation of 20 million service workers in 150 countries.
“Given the rapid growth of the contact centres in Albania, we have to make sure that these new jobs have good working conditions and pay a living wage. We cannot let global outsourcing companies like Teleperformance undermine standards for Albanian workers,” said ICSE spokesperson Bora Mema. “Now, we call on the employers to bargain a fair sector-wide agreement with workers’ union.”
“The globalisation of services should not mean a global race to the bottom, and this new union in Albania will have a ripple effect throughout Europe and throughout the world,” said UNI Global Union spokesperson Teresa Casertano.
Leaders from Italian telecommunications unions SLC-CGIL and FISTEL-CISL stood with the Albanian counterparts at the launch.
“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,” said Marco Del Cimmuto and Giorgio Serao for Italian unions SLC-CGIL and FISTel-CISL.
Published by UNI Global Union datelined Tirana, Albania, 18 February, 2019.
Benjamin Parton, Senior Organiser
Mobile: +41 79 681 77 38/ Tel: +41 22 365 2171