Dozens of ALB-MI miners in Bulqiza have gone on strike as they claim they are owed several months of salary in arrears.
The miners stated that during 2020-2021 they have not been paid their salary for months and are at the point where they cannot afford to buy food for them and their families.
One of the miners, Luan Shehu, says he will not return to work if the company does not pay salaries and insurance. He claims that the miners have been lied to, as the company has promised to pay them from month to month.
“I owe 1.5 million lek at my neighborhood grocery store, without counting other things. That is why we came to protest because we have no other option,” said Elson Zeneli, another protestor.
The miners are supported by the Union of Miners of Bulqiza, which has denounced the government’s lack of response to the situation.
Its leader, Elton Debreshi said that this is a recurring situation for miners, however he adds that the problem is not just wages.
“The material base is almost zero, even items such as boots and clothes, caps, lamps have to be bought by workers themselves,” said Debreshi.
The problem of non-payment of salaries has also been acknowledged by the company ALB-MI. The administrator, Faik Dedja, told BIRN that the miners had not been paid in five months. He said this is due to the fall in the price of chromium internationally.
The Bulqiza area is one of the richest mining areas in Albania, but it has remained the poorest area of the country. Miners are constantly complaining about the difficult conditions in which they work and the problems with arrears of wages as well as social security.
A few days ago, a 35-year-old lost his life in the chrome galleries administered by Albchrome owned by businessman Samir Mane. A concerningly high number of miners are injured during their work in the mines of Bulqize and Albchrome, yet the company often places the blame on the miner, claiming their negligence.
Despite the deaths of many miners in the Bulqiza chrome mines, no manager or owner of them has been prosecuted in the last three years.
Institutional statistics are viewed with suspicion by occupational safety and rights experts, who say accidents with minor consequences are neither reported nor properly investigated.
Miner status has remained a request that miners have requested for years, but that so far, no government has met despite promises.