Population: 620,000
Capital: Podgorica
ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

Montenegro emerged as an independent state on 3 June. It has joined the ILO, but has yet to ratify any conventions. At present, the hostile attitude of some employers, the inadequacies of the system for legal redress and restrictive strike legislation remain a problem. On 29 December the government, the Confederation of Trade Unions of Montenegro (CTUM, affiliated to the ITUC) and the Montenegrin Union of Employers signed a tripartite agreement reinforcing their commitment to co-operation and the re-establishment of the tripartite Economic and Social Council.

Trade union rights in law

Existing laws – Freedom of Association: The Labour Law, last amended in 2005, guarantees freedom of association for all employees without prior authorisation, subject to the conditions established by the statutes of trade union organisations. A trade union may be formed if at least five persons wish to do so. Trade unions need to apply for registration before the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs. The state authorities can neither dissolve a trade union nor suspend its activities.

All workers, with the exception of those employed in the state administration, have the right to bargain collectively. In case of company-level trade union pluralism the union with most members is recognised as the sole bargaining agent.

State employees denied the right to strike: A strike is defined as a "termination of work organised by employees to protect their professional and economic interests". This definition, however, is not interpreted as prohibiting solidarity strikes. Employees in state bodies and the police do not have the right to strike. Minimum services must be guaranteed in a number of activities, including postal services, radio and television, waste collection, education, culture, social assistance and childcare. The law on strikes was amended to ensure that the procedure for deciding minimum services is established in consultation with the relevant trade union organisation.

New Constitution: The new Constitution of the independent Montenegro is due be adopted in 2007, but no official draft was available to the public by the end of 2006. The CTUM would like trade unions to be more involved in the constitutional debate to ensure that the new document takes full account of trade union freedoms.

Montenegro, as a new independent state, is not bound by the Conventions ratified by the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, until the state authorities decide to accede to these Conventions. At the end of 2006 the CTUM urged the government to ratify the core ILO conventions and in a meeting with the newly appointed Minister of Health, Labour and Social Issues stressed the need for a legislative review, notably of the laws on strikes and labour conflict resolution.

Tripartite agreement: The latest General Collective Agreement (GCA) was signed on 29 December 2006 by the CTUM, the government and the Montenegrin Union of Employers (the employers were previously represented by the Chamber of Commerce). This agreement, inter alia, stipulates the minimum wage for 2007 and commits the government to re-establish the tripartite Economic and Social Council.

Trade union rights in practice

Anti-union discrimination: Dismissals, demotions and transfers of trade union activists are not uncommon. Workers have the right to legal redress, but, according to the CTUM, labour disputes usually last three years. Trade unions reported a number of violations that occurred in 2004-2005 in the industrial city of Niksic and were still not resolved at the time of writing.

Violations in 2006

Background: Montenegro, formerly a republic within the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, emerged as an independent state following the referendum of May 21, 2006 and the Declaration of Independence of 3 June. The country became a potential candidate for the EU membership. The new government, formed by the Coalition for European Montenegro, took office in November with Mr. Zeljko Sturanovic of the Democratic Party of Socialists as Prime Minister. Montenegro joined the ILO on 14 July but by the end of the year had yet to ratify any of the fundamental ILO conventions. The trade unions' assessment of the existing labour laws is essentially positive. It remains to be seen how far the new Constitution and the forthcoming labour legislation reforms take trade union rights into account.

Brewery dismisses union leader: On 1 January, the management of "Trebjesa" brewery in Niksic dismissed the trade union president, Mr. Bozidar Perovic, who had already been dismissed for his trade union activities (organising legitimate strikes) and had been re-instated by a court decision. Mr. Perovic was dismissed in 2003 and re-instated in 2005, although the company never allowed him to re-enter the premises. The case is currently pending before a court.

Intimidation in an aluminium factory: The Aluminium Factory in Podgorica (KAP) was privatised by a Russian company "Basic elements". A dispute emerged over redundancy plans and the realisation that the management was not bargaining in good faith. On 10 May the local trade union decided to launch a strike.

Once the management learned about the forthcoming strike, it passed a unilateral resolution on the minimum service to be provided, which was 20 per cent above production capacity. The employer then put pressure on the Labour Inspectorate to order the union to postpone the strike, even though the law does not allow for such an order in this sector of activity. The employer also engaged 50 private security agents to intimidate the workers on strike.

The Labour Inspectorate sided with the employer and ignored the union's appeal to order the employer to change its decision in line with the law. For the whole duration of the strike (19 June – 13 August) the labour inspector never responded to the trade union's inquiries, but always intervened at the employer's request. After the strike ended, the employer sued the trade union for damages of 1,251,933.76 EUR, as a strong deterrent against future strikes. The CTUM lodged a complaint before the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

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