Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: Aust employers criticised for resisting E Timor unions

Sunday June 15, 10:00 AM

Aust employers criticised for resisting E Timor unions

A union leader who is helping establish a labor movement in East Timor has criticised the attitudes of some Australian employers.

Didge McDonald has spent the past six months in East Timor and says Australian employers were often more resistant to the establishment of a union movement than local companies.

Mr McDonald is with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous workers union, based in Darwin.

He says most workers do not have a strong understanding of their rights.

"They pick it up pretty quickly and to have someone supporting them and reassuring them that they are on the right track, that you can work in a particular way to exercise your democratic rights, that was essential and that continues to be a need over there," he said.


Supporting the growth of trade unions in East Timor 18 March 2003

The trade union movement in East Timor has reached a critical stage in its development - and LHMU members are actively supporting them.

The LHMU has helped in the creation of the peak trade union body for East Timor - the Konfederasaun Sindicatu Timor Lorosa'e (KSTL) - which was set up in 2001 as the key organisation representing the interests of all the workers of East Timor.

For about five months Didge McDonald - an LHMU organiser normally based in the Northern Territory - has acted as a technical adviser to the KSTL.

The LHMU was asked to send Didge, to assist the East Timorese peak union group with planning and development, by Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA.

Through Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA , the LHMU is a proud supporter of this important project for East Timorese workers. Many LHMU members, activists and officials regularly donate to Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA through their pay packets.

Since its formation, the KSTL has represented workers in dispute with their employers. Around 375 cases have been handled in that time and the vast majority have been settled through negotiation.

Through this strategy a network of activists, contacts and supporters has been developed covering most of the significant work places, agreements have been negotiated and some sectoral structures established.

The KSTL is now well on the way towards being a strong and self-sustaining union movement.

Unions already existed for teachers and nurses before the KSTL was established, but now the KSTL has developed or is developing sectoral structures for are Hospitality workers, security workers, maritime,transport, construction, public service,retail and agriculture.

Little knowledge of labour rights Unfortunately East Timorese workers do not have much knowledge of their rights under the labour laws, and generally have no experience of union representation or participation.

The labour code is badly in need of a total overhaul. A Labour Board and Minimum Wages Board have yet to be established, which causes ongoing problems for resolving disputes and the payment of fair wages. There is no Health and Safety legislation.

Unemployment is now at about 20%, but this is likely to rise as the UN draws out of the country. Around 70% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture. The major prospect for employment growth is in the oil and gas developments in the Timor Sea, which will provide employment and training both directly and in support industries.

Looking to the long term The long-term aim of support by international unions for the KSTL is to develop the ability of working men and women in East Timor to take collective action to improve their wages, conditions, safety standards and workers' rights by strengthening the trade union movement of East Timor.

In the coming year, training and development of union officials, staff and union delegates will be priorities.

What is Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA?

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is the overseas aid arm of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

With projects and partners in many countries in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Southern Africa and the Caribbean, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is a means for Australian workers to directly assist international development.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is union based, with support from union members throughout Australia, from the ACTU, and from unions and workplaces involved in supporting projects

Contact Details Andrew Casey Ph: (02) 8204 7206 Fax: (02) 9281 4480

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