Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: New ACTU chief spends May Day helping Timor

The Age Monday 1 May 2000

New ACTU chief spends May Day helping Timor


New ACTU president Sharan Burrow will spend her first day in the job, May Day, advising workers how to develop a trade union system in East Timor.

Ms Burrow warned Australian companies that have set up shop in the emerging nation they were expected to operate under the same workplace principles that applied in Australia.

Ms Burrow was scheduled to arrive in Dili today after meetings with unionists in India as part of a delegation that will hold talks with United Nations officials and non-government organisations. With her are ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark, Northern Territory Labor MP Warren Snowden and Senator Trish Crossin.

Ms Burrow said in a statement the formation of unions in East Timor, banned when it was an Indonesian province, was fundamental to rebuilding the ravaged nation. They would soon cover employees in the construction, medical, teaching, transport, ports and UN sectors.

"This is a very critical time for the East Timorese people," she said. "The reconstruction of the newest nation of the 21st century must involve democratic organisations such as unions that speak for the people.

"The interests and rights of working people lie at the core of every community and these fledgling unions will be there from the start.

"The economic circumstances have been difficult for all in East Timor recently - Australian companies will be expected to use the same operating guidelines that apply to them in Australia," Ms Burrow said.

East Timorese workers would be able to join unions officially when the "transitional administration" made a commitment to International Labor Organisation principles, she said.

Mr Clark said there was much common ground between the East Timorese and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, "particularly ... the challenges of overcoming unemployment, poor health and inadequate housing".

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