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news 07 Aug 12

Ex Bosnian Employees Say NATO Owes Them Money

Around 70 former NATO employees in Bosnia claim that the international organization owes them contributions for health and pension insurance while NATO says the opposite.

Elvira M. Jukic

Some of the former employees of NATO headquarters in Bosnia staged a protest in front of the main entrance of the base on August 6, saying that their former employer owes them several years worth of health and pensions contributions.

Most of them started working for NATO right after the war, in 1995 and 1996, and say that during their first ten years of working for the organisation, they did not get any rights from their employer.

“From 2000 to 2006 they did not pay me contributions for pension and health care insurance,” said Fikreta Podrug, “But later on they did.”

She told Balkan Insight that the total estimated amount of money she claims NATO owes her is between 30,000-50,000 KM [15-25.000 euros], adding that the amount differs from person to person, due to different lengths of service.

Nijaz Music, who was a driver for 16 years, first for NATO and then for the armed forces of the European Union, EUFOR, said that in his contract and those of his fellow Bosnians who started working after the war, it was stated that the employees ought to pay their pension and health care contributions, but later on they realized that NATO was supposed to do that.

“If we did not sign these contracts we would have lost our jobs and it was a difficult period after the war,” Music said, “In 2007 when we were transferred to EUFOR our contracts did not change at all, but they did pay all of our contributions.”

Most of the former NATO employees were made redundant at the end of last year due to budget cuts.

“We demand our rights from the employment relationship, and that means recognition for our years of service, holiday pay, hot meals,” Music said, “The special conditions under which we worked should be recognised also, as I worked as a driver, and only wore a t-shirt while I drove a bus, and they all had full army equipment. There were still shootings around here.”

The laid off personnel said they were formerly too afraid to demand their rights, as they are doing now, since they were afraid of losing their jobs if they complained.

“They came here to show us what democracy is but it is the dirtiest employer in Bosnia, and my name is Music Nijaz, and I say this in public here,” he added.

The disgruntled former employees worked mostly as drivers, cooks, cleaning personnel and room maids and they say their salaries were usually around 600 KM [325 euros] per month with an extra payment for hot meals of 300 KM [150 euros].

NATO headquarters in Bosnia said in a press release on Monday that they always met their obligations as an employer and that they had already refused to make any additional contributions.

The organization also said that all of their current employees are properly registered with pension funds in Bosnia and that it makes all the necessary contributions.

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