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23 Feb 2023

UNI Global Union

Striking Workers at DT Subsidiary in Montenegro: "They want to destroy our Union"

Workers at Crnogorski Telekom, a DT subsidiary in Montenegro, have been on strike for more than three months—a strike workers say is to defend the very existence of their union.

“CT management has broken our collective agreement. They have broken the law, but they will not break our spirit. They want to destroy our union. We won’t let them,” says Željko Burić, President of the Telecom Union. “We have negotiated with the company for 15 years, but now CT—and its parent company DT—are refusing to listen. As a result, workers’ families are suffering.”

The strike began on 15 November 2022, and workers have not received a wage since them.

The 475 CT employees in Montenegro are mostly technicians who install and repair phone and internet lines. They worked through the pandemic to keep their country connected. However, CT has repaid their essential work by union busting and unilaterally cancelling swaths of workers’ collective agreement that protect job security.

The striking workers are asking for a return to the job protections of the previous collective agreement and an increase in pay of 30 per cent. Workers have not received a pay rise since 2008. In that time, inflation in the Balkan nation has risen by 50 per cent, undercutting workers’ wages. However, management and shareholders have profited greatly.

According to the Telecom Union, CT is using those resources to illegally hire strike breakers. The company is also allegedly setting up a yellow union as well as not paying striking workers’ social benefits as legally required.

Additionally, management is not allowing the union to gather on company premises and has blocked communications from the union to workers. CT’s union busting has gotten so extreme that the union has filed criminal charges against CT management that could result in up to one year in prison.

“It is in this dire situation that we take a stand. We have tried to the courts; we have called the labour inspectors; we have tried at the negotiation table, but so far, the company has not budged,” said Burić. “We want from CT what we know that workers at DT currently have and what we used to get from the company, a willingness to negotiate and a willingness to follow the law.”

He continued, “We are fighting for the survival of our livelihoods and for the protection of our rights. That is why we ask for international solidarity.” [...]