Last Updated: Friday, 28 November 2014, 15:42 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Montenegro

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Montenegro, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88935c.html [accessed 28 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 631,000
Capital: Podgorica

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 26

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Anti-union discrimination remains a serious problem, including dismissals of active trade union members. At least 11 workers were dismissed while on strike. Military personnel, who have the right to organise, faced anti-union pressure.

Background

Five years after independence, the question of national identity and relations between citizens of Montenegrin and Serbian origin remained an issue. In August 2011, the opposition threatened to boycott the parliament and conditioned its support for electoral reform, one of the conditions for further progress in EU accession, and granting the equal status to both the Montenegrin and Serbian languages. Parliament adopted a compromise by granting equal status to Montenegrin-Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian. In December, the European Council set June 2012 as a target date for opening accession negotiations with Montenegro, providing the country, among other conditions, achieves further progress in tackling corruption and organised crime.

Trade union rights in law

Although the Labour Code provides for basic trade union rights, it contains excessive restrictions. The 2007 Constitution and 2008 Labour Law recognise the right to form and join trade unions, and the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees grants that right to said categories of workers.

Collective bargaining is hampered by the fact that only the most representative unions, that is unions with the largest membership, can be parties to collective agreements.

Furthermore, the law stipulates that the right to strike may be limited for persons employed in state bodies and public service on grounds of protecting the public interest. A minimum service must also be established in a number of services following consultations with representative trade unions. Albeit the 2005 Law on Strikes improved the situation, the employer can still decide on the minimum service unilaterally if negotiations with the union fail

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Anti-union discrimination: Dismissals, demotions and discrimination of trade union activists are not uncommon. The right to strike is often limited in practice, and trade unionists face reprisals including threats of dismissals for their union activism. Restrictive laws on strikes and highly flexible employment relations amplify the problem. As a result, most of the strikes occur only after months of unpaid wages, usually in the companies already facing bankruptcy.

Violations

Dismissed while on strike: In Tei Mont, in Nikšić, 11 out of 14 workers went on strike on 8 November 2010 due to unlawful reduction in salaries up to 50%, in spite of company's good financial performance. During the strike, the employer dismissed five striking workers. On 4 February 2011, the company brought in two workers from Serbia to replace the workers on strike. Although the Labour Inspection warned new workers they were not allowed to perform work for the company, they ignored the warning and continued to work for next three days. The dismissed workers sued the company. The court ruled that the employer should reinstate all workers and pay all unpaid salaries.

International union action against Deutsche Telekom: Workers at Crnogorski telekom, in Podgorica, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, went on strike on 15 March 2010 in protest at violations of their collective agreement. The employer unilaterally imposed a requirement for the majority of employees to work despite the strike, prohibited them from wearing badges or other symbols of solidarity and brought in strike breakers from two other companies. On 7 July 2011, the German union ver.di, Communication Workers of America and UNI Global Union filed a complaint with the OECD contact point, describing Deutsche Telekom's anti-union activities in the US and Montenegro which violated the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and company's own published commitments to labour standards. The complaint stated that Crnogorski Telekom hindered the free exercise of collective bargaining and completely undermined the effectiveness of the strike during March 2010 events.

Anti-union discrimination in the Montenegrin Army:

After changes to the Law on the Army which granted trade union rights to military personnel in December 2009, two military trade unions were founded in October and November 2010; namely the SOVCG and the SVCG.

SOVCG has reported that the Army began to exert anti-union pressure immediately after the union was founded, resulting in members leaving the union. According to SOVCG, the union was denied contact with their members during meal breaks, the contracts of army personnel who joined the union were not extended, and for one soldier appointment to a mission in Afghanistan depended on his leaving the union.

On 23 March, captain Rajko Bulatović, during a briefing on a patrol ship in Bar, accused the union of undermining the chain of command, stated that the army did not need a union and urged his subordinates to leave the union. The audio recording of the speech was later published in the media. Also in March, the Ministry of Defence initiated disciplinary proceedings against SOVCG President, Nenad Čobeljić, due to his media statements. The Ministry invoked the provision of the Law on the Army whereby army personnel are not allowed to speak in the media without the prior consent of a superior officer. Čobeljić argued he was as a union leader, pointing out the problems faced by military personnel, including trade union discrimination, and alleged malpractices in allocating military accommodation. On 29 November, Defence Minister Boro Vučinić ordered Čobeljić to be removed from his position as the Head of Department for Operations and Training in the Logistical Base of the Army of Montenegro.

Court orders not respected: The construction company Novi Prvoborac, in Herceg Novi, has refused to bargain collectively, violated the right to strike and unlawfully dismissed workers, including trade union leaders, since 2008. By the end of 2010, the courts had overruled a total of 71 dismissals on the grounds that they were unlawful. Some of the workers were eventually reinstated in 2011, but only on one-month contracts instead of the open-ended ones they previously had, and not in Novi Prvoborac but in a subsidiary company Kamen Beton. Thirteen such workers went on hunger strike in June. On 30 July, the Basic Court in Herceg Novi ruled that the employer had to compensate unpaid salaries for 40 dismissed workers, for the period between the date of their unlawful dismissal and the court ruling against it, in total an amount of around 400,000 EUR. Given that the company filed for bankruptcy in October however, it remains unclear when, and where from, the workers will get their compensation.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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