Fwd (GLW): EAST TIMOR: UN agency workers go on strike

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Mon Jan 22 04:18:27 MST 2001

The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly

EAST TIMOR: UN agency workers go on strike

DILI — Workers at three World Food Program warehouses here took strike
action on January 8 and then went to the headquarters of the WFP the next
day when the agency took no notice of their protest. WFP is a UN agency in
charge of the emergency food relief program.

The 120 workers demanded that they be allowed to work daily, as opposed to
four times a month that they are presently doing. They also demanded that
their work schedule be clarified and that the employer adhere to Indonesian
labour laws, the only labour laws in existence in East Timor at present.

The workers receive 35,000 rupiah (A$7) a day for each day that they work.
They claimed that they never signed a contract to work with WFP. In the
past the lack of a contract has been used by employers as an easy way to
get out of their obligations to their workers.

The WFP workers asked the Socialist Party of Timor (PST) to assist them in
the dispute and representatives from the party have been involved in
negotiations with WFP management and UNTAET.

WFP management maintained that there was insufficient work for the number
of workers it took on. It has proposed that 25 workers be employed as day
labourers and the rest of the workers be completely laid off with a US$100
severance pay. Further, WFP has intimated that the agency would be forced
to discontinue its operations in East Timor, should the industrial action

Avelino Coelho, general secretary of the PST and member of the National
Council, told Green Left that he would bring the issue before the 34-member
National Council to examine WFP's claim that the dispute would force the
agency to pull out of East Timor.

Coelho also questioned the claim by WFP that no other employer in Dili paid
their workers higher than the current wage level of the strikers and that
the wage level had been set by UNTAET. He cited the example of at least one
other agency paying wages of US$5 a day for day labourers. He also stated
that the wage levels set by UNTAET only pertained to civil servants.

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