Dilaver Perkoxha has been living in Bulqiza, in the northeast of Albania, for 24 years. He is a miner on the 17th level, in the depths of Bulqiza's chromite mine.
"I have lived in the workers' accommodation for a long time. It used only to be one room in which I lived alone. Now I live here with my wife and children so we have divided the room. But these are very difficult living conditions. We live here without running water and without our own toilet."
The workers in the Bulqiza mine had been demanding better working conditions and higher pay for many years. Even worse than the hardship they had to contend with, were the repeated accidents. Headlines about deaths in Bulqiza came to be commonplace.
"There were supposed to have been investments in the mine. This never happened! Our salaries were very, very low and the work extremely dangerous. Our bosses enriched themselves without taking care of anything. They lived a comfortable life at our expense and left us in the lurch."
On June 1, 2007 660 miners went on strike. As the head of the striker's committee in the Bulqiza Miner's union Dilaver Perkoxha was one of their leaders. The miners' anger increased when two more miners were killed on the 11th of June.
"We even went on hunger strike. Here and in Tirana. We protested because we demand better working conditions. We also want to eat our fill, earn a little money and work in peace and security. I am concerned about how to continue providing food for my family, not about wearing a tie."
The civil rights movement MJAFT decided to come to the miners' aid. With their help the miners were bussed to Tirana, so that their protest could be heard by a wider public. They demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Work and the Prime Minister's office, and spent two nights camping in the streets of Tirana. Finally, their efforts proved successful when the administration of the company which owns the Bulqiza mine, agreed to negotiate directly with the miners.