A survey conducted by the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism reveals that 75 percent of young journalists don’t get paid for the employment trial period, even though this is a legal obligation.
Blerina Allushi, 22 years old, a new graduate of the Faculty of Journalism at the University of Tirana, was promised in January, by managers of a news website, that after a 3-day trial they were going to decide whether she would be employed or not.
With previous experiences as a journalist in online media, three days passed and the superiors at the website asked her to continue working until she started asking for the payment.
“After a week, I started asking about payment. I was suggested to continue working without payment because I hadn’t adapted to the new position yet. I continued to insist and in the third week, I was told to work for another month for free. I refused and left,” Blerina said.
Payment for the work during the trial period is a legal obligation in Albania, but a survey conducted by the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism, in February, with the participation of 56 journalism students and new graduates, shows that it is not applied in the majority of the media.
According to the survey, 75 percent of the respondents or 42 of them declared that they were not paid for the trial period, revealing the systematic problems of work relationships in this field.
The online media are not alone violating the employment trial periods.
Mimoza Ibra, a young journalist, revealed for the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism that she had worked for six months straight in a news television in Tirana and she did not receive any payment.
“From January of 2016 until May of 2017 I have worked in a trial period for six months. I was never paid, and that’s why I decided to leave,” she said.
According to Mimoza, the same experience at the same television network happened to her friend, who worked for six months without getting paid as well.
Informality in the sector appears to be high, in a time when employer and employee don’t sign a regular employment contract in 86 percent of the cases, which involves the trial period sanctioned by law.
Meanwhile, the Labor Inspectorate, which has the obligation to supervise and take action against Labor Code violations, acknowledged in a statement for the Center that it has yet to identify all kinds of violations happening in the media field.
This institution stated to have performed inspections in different media after receiving complaints about unpaid salaries– without specifying the number – but without focusing on the payment during the trial period.
“We cannot differentiate how many of the complaints about unpaid salaries pertain to unpaid work during trial periods,” the institution’s reply reads.
The survey reveals a high number of unemployed young journalists following the unpaid trial period. There are 25 cases when the trial period did not lead to their gainful employment.
According to Article 142 in the Labor Code, the trial period can be prolonged to a maximum of three months, from the moment when the employee is invited to contribute to the work of a company or institution, based on a written contract.
The only freedom the Code offers during this period is the unilateral termination of the contract by the parties, notifying the decision to the other party at least five days in advance.
Aleksandër Çipa, chairman of the Albanian Journalists Union, considers the issue of unpaid work, camouflaged as work in trial periods in the Albanian media, as a systematic problem.
“We have consistently and periodically raised the issue, we have presented data and specific statistics, and we have demanded the establishment of journalists’ syndicates in Albanian media,” he said.
For him, the establishment of these syndicates was obstructed and so far none exists, not even in the public media.
The survey showed that in 32 percent of the cases, the journalists “in trial” are forced to leave because they notice the very small chances of ever getting paid.
The data and testimonies gathered from conversations with young journalists create the impression that many media outlets have transformed the unpaid trial work period in an abusive system, which provides them workforce without financial obligation.
Blerina points out that after she left the online media that wouldn’t pay her for the trial period, she learned that its managers would ask other new graduate journalism students to work under the same conditions.
The abusive practices in employment relationships in Albanian media outlets are inherent for many years. But it appears that there was never a serious attempt by institutions to undertake disciplinary actions against the managers of these media outlets.
Translated by Joel Çela