Subject: DPA: Staff at U.N. floating hotel strikes for better pay

Deutsche Presse-Agentur February 11, 2000, Sunday, BC Cycle

Staff at U.N. floating hotel strikes for better pay Dili, East Timor

Timorese workers at a floating hotel that houses United Nations staff in Dili staged a daylong strike for better pay and working conditions, workers said Friday.

The job action at the Hotel Olympia ended Friday with a new contract.

The hotel, which rents out rooms for more than 160 dollars a night to take advantage of a chronic housing shortage in Dili, has been paying its Timorese workforce only 3 U.S. dollars a day for a 12-hour day, employees said.

On Thursday, the hotel made history as the site of the first strike since East Timor was liberated from Indonesian occupation.

"We are demanding a minimum wage of 10 Australian dollars (6 U.S. dollars) a day for a nine-hour day, that includes a one-hour lunch break. We also want the two managers be replaced by more sensitive people," one of the strike leaders, Domingos Da Silva, told DPA on Friday.

The owner's representative, Wouter Lap, on Friday said an agreement had been reached.

"Two new managers will be brought in, the owners are prepared to increase the rate per day up to 9 (Australian) dollars, and we will reach an agreement that will lead to much better relations in the future," he said.

The new deal has been accepted by hotel staff, and will be signed on Saturday by the vice-president of management company Eurocrest. The vice-president is flying in from Singapore for the occasion.

The Hotel Olympic and its sister barge, the Hotel Amos, are owned by a Swedish-based consortium who have sub-contracted catering and other services to Eurocrest.

The floating hotel arrangement was contracted to provide accommodation for hundreds of international staff working for the UN transitional government (UNTAET).

An estimated 70 percent of all housing in the capital, Dili, was destroyed by the orgy of violence unleashed last year by pro-Indonesian militias after East Timor residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Jakarta.

Many Timorese have argued that the U.N. should have launched a crash programme to help local families accommodate international staff by funding immediate refurbishing and renovation, rather than providing lucrative contracts to international corporations. dpa tf kj --- Agence France Presse East Timorese strike at floating hotels housing UN staff

DILI, East Timor, Feb 11

Negotiations continued Friday to resolve one of East Timor's first labor disputes, which saw a day-long walkout from the two floating hotels housing UN employees.

About 40 East Timorese workers at the Olympia and Amos W. hotels walked off the job on Thursday to protest wages, working hours and alleged discrimination.

They were back cleaning rooms, doing laundry and catering Friday as hotel management moved to address their complaints.

"Yes, they were right in their points," said Wouter Lap, acting manager of the two floating hotels.

The strikers work for Eurest, an international firm subcontracted by the hotels, Lap said.

"We insist to them they must increase our salary," said Domingos da Silva, one of the strike leaders. The employees earn five Australian dollars (about 3.5 US dollars) a day but were asking for 25 dollars, he said.

De Silva, a room boy, said they want their 72-hour work week reduced. They also object to searches of their bags conducted in front of East Timorese bystanders on the docksides outside the hotels, he said.

"They are suspicious that maybe we are steal something," da Silva said.

"We want justice," said another room boy, Milton Dias Ximenes.

Lap said negotiations to resolve the dispute have been conducted with the help of two representatives from the National Council of Timorese Resistance.

He said wages can be raised to between 8.50 and 9.00 dollars a day, while the subcontractor is prepared to reduce the work week.

Spot checks of workers leaving the hotels will continue, but in a more sensitive manner, he said.

"In any hotel operation, you have to have spot checks," he said.

Lap also said new managers are arriving to run the sub-contractor's operation.

"The two guys who are there now, they will leave within a week's time," Lap said. Workers were not happy with the two foreign supervisors, he said.

During the day-long strike, more than 30 East Timorese working in the bar, security and front office, employed directly by the hotel, continued to work. Those workers already earn a minimum of eight Australian dollars a day.

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