|Subject: PR: East Timor Workers Organise
First May Day Public Holiday
Timor Loro Sae Comisaun Loron Maio € East Timor May Day Committee
MEDIA ADVISORY 28 APRIL 2000, DILI, EAST TIMOR spokesperson: Eusebio
Guterres 0419 417 327
WORKERS ORGANISE FIRST EAST TIMOR MAY DAY UNTAET Declares New National
Public Holiday in Response
In the midst of these early days of Timor Loro Sae's transition to
independence, and at a time of endemic unemployment and growing labour
strife, East Timorese have won their first new national public holiday.
Following months of preparation and with broad community support, the
East Timor May Day Committee has received a declaration from Transitional
Administrator Sergio de Mello proclaiming Monday, May 1 as May Day.
The Committee, comprised of emerging workers' associations, the Labor
Advocacy Institute, many representatives of civil society and the
unemployed, will now join all East Timorese and their counterparts around
the world in an international day of celebration, education and advocacy
for workers' rights.
"The UN Transitional Administration is not only the temporary
government of East Timor but is the biggest employer of our people",
stated May Day Committee Coordinator Nino Periera. "While they are so
often the source of labor strife in these conflicting roles, we are
encouraged by their support for a day which brings together all workers,
the unemployed and their families."
The May Day declaration also follows a two day forum on employment and
labor relations sponsored by the ILO (International Labour Organisation)
and UNTAET. According to Eusebio Guterres of LAIFET, the Labour Advocacy
Institute of East Timor, these two events may signal a shift in the UN's
previous attitudes towards labor issues and of the process of creating
legislation during the transition period.
"For months, East Timorese have struggled with 90% unemployment.
Those lucky to work receive subsistence wages, endure poor working
conditions and have no health and safety protections, social benefits or
contracts, even when they work for wealthy overseas companies or United
Nations organisations", said Guterres.
As a result of the ILO/UNTAET forum, East Timorese will be now be full
participants in the formulation of labour and employment laws and the
creation of interim measures which will set minimum standards, protect
workers' rights, consider price controls and settle disputes.
"The UN has agreed to implement a ILO-based Tripartite Plus
participatory process, including representatives from workers, employers,
government and civil society. Together with the May Day Declaration, East
Timorese can finally participate in meaningful job creation and in the
planning of their own economic future," according to the LAIFET
"As the best expression of their support, we hope that the UN will
authorise their overseas employees to join with all East Timorese workers,
employed, unemployed and their families, in celebrating our new national
holiday," concluded Guterres.
East Timorese workers and the unemployed will be joined in East Timor
on May Day by international labour officials and leaders of Aboriginal
organisations in Australia.
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