NGO Human Rights Action (HRA) supports the requirements of mothers protesting the reduction of amounts of lifetime benefits, to which they acquired the right on the basis of the birth of three or more children, according to the Law on Social and Child Protection.
Reducing the lifetime fee for mothers is contrary to the rights to peaceful enjoyment of property and social protection, prescribed by the Constitution of Montenegro and international human rights treaties binding Montenegro. On Friday, HRA sent a letter to the Prime Minister Duško Marković with a proposal to the Government to urgently initiate amendments of the Law and re institute the original way of determining the amount of lifetime benefits for the mothers.
Namely, according to the Law on Social and Child Protection from 2015, applied from 1 January 2016, every woman “who gave birth to three or more children” may opt for a lifetime monthly benefit in the amount of 70% and 40% of the average net salary in Montenegro, calculated for the year preceding the exercise of this right. On this basis, the benefits in 2016 amounted to 336 euros and 192 euros respectively.
If above mentioned articles would continue to apply, the monthly benefits for mothers in 2017 were supposed to increase to 349.3 euros and 199.6 euros, in line with the growth of the average net salary in 2016. However, instead, by the amendment of the Law on Social and Child Welfare from December 2016, fees have been lowered to fixed amounts of 264 euros and 144 euros, hence being reduced for exactly 24.4% and 27.8%.
Although according to the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, the state has the right to reduce the amount of social benefits or pensions in public interest, the state should not do it to the detriment of a fair balance of interest i.e. to disproportionately affect the individual rights.
In this case, the fundamental problem is that the legitimate expectation of mothers to continue receiving a lifetime benefits in the amount of 70% or 40% of the average net salary has been betrayed by the new Law, to a disproportional detriment of some 8700 mothers who made the decision to irreversibly renounce salaries and pensions for lifetime benefits.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also prohibits retrogressive measures in relation to the right to social security including social benefits, except in exceptional circumstances with respect to strictly prescribed procedure and conditions, which were not fulfilled when the Law was changed in December 2016.