Following a 136-day strike, Montenegro’s telecom workers are celebrating a collective agreement that reverses a 14-year wage freeze and interrupts more than a decade of alleged union-busting tactics by Crnogorski Telekom (CT), majority owned by Deutsche Telecom since 2005.
The agreement won by the Trade Union of Telecom of Montenegro (STCG) immediately increases workers’ wages by 15 percent and provides an additional 5 percent total wage increase through 2025. Workers also negotiated improved benefits, job cut limits and, for the first time, severance pay.
“The company could not claim any more that the wage increase was inadmissible, given that every year it distributed dividends to shareholders and paid bonuses to already highly paid managers,” says Burić. “Since 2008, their profit has exceeded half a billion euros,” he says.
CT last gave workers a pay raise in 2008, even though consumer prices in Montenegro increased more than 45 percent from 2006 through 2021, and workers have been carrying an increased workload. The company slashed jobs by almost two-thirds since Deutsche Telecom took majority ownership, says STCG.
During its ongoing wage battle with the union, CT violated the country’s labor law by threatening to abolish the union’s collective agreement and refusing to negotiate with workers’ democratically elected leaders, say unions.
The agreement was won in spite of CT’s effort to violate numerous fundamental labor rights in the most egregious way,” says STCG President Željko Burić.
Solidarity support for STCG’s campaign was provided in Montenegro by the Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro (UFTUM) and its affiliates. Other union and worker rights organizations supporting the campaign included the Albanian Telecommunications Union SPPTSH, Alliance One Telekom Union (OTU), the Croatian Telecommunications Union HST, the cooperation project of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) under the European Commission with regional network Solidarnost, the Transport and Telecommunications Union of Serbia GS SITEL Nezavisnost, Germany’s Ver.di, ETUC, the Solidarity Center, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and UNI Global Union. STCG is an ITUC member and founding UFTUM member.