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(with Englih subtitles)
Dear comrades trade unionists,
We, the members of the United Miners of Bulqiza Trade Union, appeal to your international solidarity with the struggle of the mineworkers of Bulqiza, Albania.
Bulqiza is very rich in mining resources, yet it remains one of the poorest cities in Albania. Over the past twenty-five years its wealth has been plundered by dubious local and multinational companies, which have privatized its mines and exploited the labor of its inhabitants. This would not have been possible without the complicity of an old political caste and corrupt unions that have betrayed our trust.
We are more than 700 men working in the pits of the largest chrome mine administered by Albchrome, a powerful company owned by Albanian billionaire Samir Mane.
Our rights are constantly violated, our wages are decreasing and our working conditions are deteriorating day after day, leading to the death of dozens in our ranks. Even more exploited than us are our women and children who, without contracts or work insurance, venture into the deserted areas between the mining galleries to collect the mineral and sell it by weight.
Revolted against these conditions that put us in danger and undermine our dignity, aware of our rights and the urgent need to organize to defend them, on November 17, 2019, we formed a new independent trade union “United Miners of Bulqiza Trade Union”. The reaction to our initiative intending to crush our struggle came immediately. Three days later, four trade unionists were fired, including Elton Debreshi our leader. A massive strike began the next day that the company and the police managed to crush by exerting all forms of pressure, whereas the mass media remained totally silent.
It took a year for the union to catch its breath and mobilize in December 2020, around a campaign demanding the recognition of a special status at work for miners : better wages, right to early retirement, access to health care etc. The campaign was a huge success with the population. On February 24, 2021, a petition signed by more than 10,700 people was submitted to the Ministry of Labor, which to date has not responded to our request.
It is after all these failed attempts to restore the dignity that our profession deserves, that we decided to support the independent candidacy of our representative Elton Debreshi in the parliamentary elections that will be held in Albania, on April 25.
Elton is our brother, our comrade, a tireless worker and a strong supporter of the miners’ cause. Elton is the son and grandson of miners, the father of four children whose future promises nothing better than the dark drudgery within the chrome pits until death. His candidacy is not only an opportunity to make our struggle visible, but a historical event where for the first time a comrade miner, an honest worker would give himself the means to enter the Albanian Parliament in order to defend our cause and that of all the exploited, the marginalized and voiceless workers around the country. His election would be neither a beginning, nor an end in itself, but the continuation of a long fight for the dignity and respect that we inherit from our parents. To win, there is only one solution : perseverance and self-organization. That is why we continue to fight on all fronts : in the mine, at union meetings, at campaign rallies that will win the election.
Unlike the establishment parties, financed and supported by the oligarchy and local criminal groups, Elton’s electoral campaign is being carried out with great sacrifice thanks to the daily commitment of our comrades, the many citizen supporters and the dedication of a small group of activists from Organizata Politike – a radical left-wing organization that defends the cause of workers and marginalized social groups and has been fighting alongside us for several years.
Comrade trade unionists, if we address this appeal to you, it is because we remain convinced that our struggle will have more chances to win if it benefits from the international solidarity of our peers. Any form of support for the electoral campaign of our comrade Elton Debreshi would be a great help : a written appeal, a video of support, a reportage that would make our collective struggle known internationally. Could we envisage a meeting, a moment of exchange of experiences taking into account the health context and the geographical distance that separates us ?
Finally, if the electoral deadline is an imminent challenge, we hope that it will serve as a starting point to weave links of mutual aid and sharing of experiences that will last. We are convinced that we, the workers, the precarious, the marginalized, the discriminated, will not be able to do without our independent organization at the local and international level, if we want to prevail over the many challenges that lie ahead.
Sincerely counting on your international solidarity,
The Trade Union of Miners of Bulqiza
Supported by the Political Organization
March 28, 2021