05 Sep 14
Montenegro Troops Threaten Protests Over Salaries
While Montenegro defence officials acclaim army reforms at the NATO summit in Wales, military personnel are planning protests about poor working conditions and low wages.
The Military Union, which represents Montenegrin troops, told BIRN that it will stage protests if the Ministry of Defence does not respond by September 15 to its demand for 30 per cent salary increases.
“If an agreement cannot be reached, we will be forced to fight for our rights with all legally available resources. It means that we will start protests,” the union’s head, lieutenant-colonel Nenad Cobeljic, told BIRN.
The union is also demanding better healthcare and a “clearly defined system of promotions”, Cobeljic said.
The country’s defence authorities have said on several occasions that Montenegro has armed forces that are “structured, trained and equipped” to the standards of NATO countries’ armed forces.
Ahead of the current NATO summit, Defence Minister Milica Pejanovic Djurisic said Montenegro was fully compliant with the standards of the Western military alliance and that it deserved membership.
But Cobeljic claims that the Montenegrin army, with an average wage to 440 euros, is far from the NATO standards when it comes to financial conditions.
He recalled that until recently, Montenegrin troops did not have insurance for injuries and overtime pay.
“Working conditions are at least twice as bad as in the Bosnian or Serbian army, not to mention Slovenia or the other NATO countries,” he added.
The military trade union was founded in October2010, after changes to the Law on the Army which granted trade union rights to military personnel.
But the union has alleged that the defence authorites began to exert anti-union pressure immediately after it was founded, resulting in members leaving.
It claimed that the union was denied contact with its members during meal breaks, the contracts of army personnel who joined the union were not extended, and for one soldier, deployment to a mission in Afghanistan depended on his leaving the union,
The military authorities initiated two disciplinary procedures in 2011 against Cobeljic for “disclosing to the media information about corruption and abuses in the military”.
The same year, the Ministry of Defence suspended Cobeljic “because of violations at work” but claimed that this had nothing to do with his trade union activities.
After lengthy disciplinary proceedings, the charges were dropped and Cobeljic was returned to his position in 2013.
A survey by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2012 said that anti-union discrimination remains a serious problem and military personnel have faced “anti-union pressure”.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)