Subject: UN Workers In East Timor Protest Cut In Living Allowance

Associated Press January 29, 2001

UN Workers In East Timor Protest Cut In Living Allowance

DILI, East Timor (AP)--Hundreds of U.N. workers in East Timor signed a petition Monday against cuts to their daily living allowances.

From Feb. 1, the East Timor Mission Subsistence Allowance will drop from $109 to $95.

"A lot of staff members will now have to start digging into their salaries at home," said U.N. employee Jan Koller, who is leading the movement against the cut. He said over 200 staffers had signed so far.

The world body is administering East Timor during its transition to full independence. Some 2,000 out of 9,000 U.N. staffers currently engaged on the mission are entitled to the per diem, which is added to their existing monthly salaries.

East Timorese U.N. employees are not entitled to the allowance, which is considered an incentive to attract qualified international staff.

The average salary for East Timorese employed by the mission is less than $20 a day.

The United Nations estimates more than 75% of East Timorese of working age remain unemployed after retreating Indonesian soldiers devastated the territory in September, 1999.

The world body reduced the allowances because of a decrease in the cost of living and an improved security situation, said U.N. press spokesperson Barbara Reis. The reduction brings the East Timor per diem into line with the Kosovo mission, she said.

According to Koller, the reduction will affect worker's ability to take vacations, renovate destroyed accommodation, eat in restaurants and travel to and from work.

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