On June 8, the Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro organized a conference: “New forms of work – new challenges.” The conference was organized as one of the activities carried out by the UFTUM within the project “Trade Unions for Fair Recovery”, which is supported by the European Trade Union Confederation and funded by the European Commission. In addition to the UFTUM representatives, the conference was attended by representatives of the following institutions: Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, Ministry of Science and Technological Development, Revenue and Customs Administration, Inspection Administration, Montenegrin Employers Federation, Confederation of Trade Unions of Montenegro, Social Council, ILO Office in Montenegro, the Association for Occupational Safety and Health and the Association for Democratic Prosperity ZID.
The conference was dedicated to the challenges that new forms of work bring, such as platform work, freelancing, and work from home, i.e. telework. The organizers intended to start a broader dialogue on the above-mentioned topics, imposing numerous doubts ranging from terminological to essential meaning, and requiring additional legislative and institutional arrangements. The UFTUM presented to the conference participants the results of qualitative research at the level of focus groups (three focus groups composed of participants who worked from home during the pandemic in the telecommunications, banking and education sectors and three focus groups composed of freelancers and platform workers from various sectors such as journalism, graphic design, education, IT, etc.) which was developed for the needs of the UFTUM by the DeFacto Consultancy Agency. Although such qualitative research does not represent the general attitude of the target groups, nevertheless, it can provide an in-depth idea of how respondents see their status and position and how they see opportunities to improve it.
In the continuation of the conference, the following panelists addressed the participants: Jevrosima Pejović, Director of the Directorate for Labor and Employment at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Ivan Komatina, Head of the Department for Registration of Taxpayers and Insured in the Services and Registration Sector, as well as Dragoljub Nikolić, tax inspector I in the Operational Sector in the field of inspection, on behalf of the Revenue and Customs Administration. The panelists presented, from their perspective and the role of the authorities they come from, the challenges they face when it comes to freelancers, platform workers and the institute of work from home. Their presentations opened a broad and very constructive discussion in which everyone present took part.
The participants assessed that the conference was very useful given that it dealt with a very important and challenging topic, and that it should be the first in a series of steps to be taken in terms of improving the legislative framework. It was concluded that the topics that were the subject of the conference should be the subject of a broader social dialogue. The social partners and representatives of the civil sector should be involved in the work of working groups to draft a legislative framework governing the work of freelancers and platform workers, in particular with regard to providing conditions for their decent work. From the aspect of more adequate regulation of these forms of work in terms of the tax regulation, the participation of the Revenue and Customs Administration, the Ministry of Finance, and the Central Bank is necessary.
As concluded, the UFTUM will, within the next project activities, invite the Government of Montenegro to form an inter-ministerial body with the participation of social partners and interested representatives of the non-governmental sector, which would systematically deal with these topics to better understand these forms of work, and the creation of an adequate legislative and institutional framework for the benefit of employees and employers as well as the benefit of the state and the state budget.