Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: ABC: Australian union official arrested during industrial row

Also: AGE: Row erupts as UN police jail Australian unionist

EAST TIMOR: Australian union official arrested during industrial row

ABC, 8 October

A bitter industrial dispute in East Timor has taken a turn for the worse, with the arrest of an Australian trade union official by United Nations police. The official was taking part in a protest at Dili Airport on Sunday, organised by striking East Timorese employees of Timor Aviation Services. The Australian Council of Trade Unions claims the arrest is unprecedented, and the UN has interfered with the right to take industrial action.

Presenter/Interviewer: Kellie Day

Speakers: Sharran Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU); Zito de Costa, President of the East Timor Trade Union Council (KSTL); Alan King, Deputy Commissioner of Operations UN Police in East Timor; Tony Penna, Managing Director of Timor Aviation Services in Dili

DAY: Mick Killick is a union organiser with Australia's International Transport Federation, who's been working with East Timor's Trade Union Council, the KSTL. On Sunday morning, he was arrested by United Nations police, during a protest at Dili airport, by employees of Timor Aviation Services. The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sharran Burrow, says Mr Killick took part in a legitimate, peaceful protest and his arrest was unwarranted.

BURROW: To have someone arrested for legitimate activity and held without charges seems to us to be incredible. But it does appear that this is at the level of harrassment rather than the level of significant or serious breach of any legal statute.

DAY: For six months, management of Timor Aviation Services has been negotiating with workers, who want a collective bargaining agreement setting out their employment conditions and entitlements. But last month amid discussions, two workers were sacked when they refused to unload an aircraft that arrived unscheduled during their shift. After mediation, East Timor's Labor and Solidarity Department recommended the company reinstate the workers. But Timor Aviation Services refused, prompting the beginning of a strike and protest action by the company's 13 local employees last Friday. The company's managing director, Tony Penna, claims the protesters tried to hinder Timor Aviation's operations, promptingUN police to step in.

PENNA: There are a number of people whose bags were grabbed and whose arms were grabbed by the protestors to stop them when they were pushing their way through into the airport. They were told very clearly that they couldn't do that that the airport must still operate that passengers must still be allowed to enter the airport but they made a very serious attempt to stop people entering the airport.

DAY: Mick Killick's arrest has been a hot topic of discussion among union officials at the International Labor Organisation's Asia Pacific regional conference in New Zealand. They've passed a motion condemning the UN police in East Timor, for what they call unprecedented action to arrest and detain union officials. Sharran Burrow from Australia's ACTU believes the UN police have overriden the right to take legitimate industrial action.

BURROW: Certainly from our perspective it looks like the UN police have crossed the line. So yes we would ask why it is that the UN police have involved themselves in industrial issues and secondly why it is that someone would be held for 72 hours without release either into custody or on bail.

DAY: Local union officials in East Timor say the situation is made worse by the fact that local East Timor police saw no reason to intervene in the dispute. Zito de Costa is the president of the KSTL.

DE COSTA: So UN have to take action on this otherwise the UN institutions will be bad for East Timor people because now we are starting democracy to express our idea, but then the police want to stop democracy. We can't tolerate on this.

DAY: Union officials in East Timor want to know if business dealings between Timor Aviation and the UN had anything to do with Mr Killick's arrest. In September, the company took on a 10 month contract to load and unload UN aircraft at Dili airport. The UN police deputy commissioner of operations in East Timor, Alan King, has dismissed that suggestion. He alleges the Australian assaulted one of his officers and he's confident the UN police have done nothing wrong.

KING: I have worked here for some time now and they are very very resilient and they do not jump to situations or jump to conclusions of situations. And I think the officer concerned is a very experienced officer who's worked in many places around the world.

DAY: The ongoing dispute at Timor Aviation Services shows the difficulties East Timor's government and community face in setting up systems covering matters such as industrial relations. Sharran Burrow from the ACTU says progress is slow but patience is necessary.

BURROW: If you're asking a worker's representative, i.e me, is it fast enough I'd say no but on the other hand we're very sympathetic because it's an incredible task isn't it to set up a whole legal system, to establish a government in transition so of course while we would be impatient we're also respectful of the fact that the commitment to the law, the intentions around legal procedures, the process to set up an arbitration court, those things are in place and we wish them well. 07/10/2003

The Age [Melbourne] Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Row erupts as UN police jail Australian unionist

By Paul Robinson Workplace Editor

An Australian union official has been jailed in East Timor by United Nations police after a demonstration outside a local airline office owned by Australian travel company executives.

The ACTU protested yesterday to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the International Labor Organisation and Australia's consulate in Timor after the unionist, Michael Killick, was removed from a picket line at Dili Airport and jailed on Sunday. He was charged with assaulting an UN policeman.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said yesterday from an ILO conference in New Zealand: "It's now an international incident. The arrest of Mick Killick is an amazing over-reaction and one that we believe cannot be justified, particularly from an organisation which supports collective bargaining."

According to the International Transport Workers Federation, the dispute flared because Timor Aviation Services, which handles baggage, sacked unionists shortly after being awarded a major contract to manage flights for UN staff. Mr Killick is a Maritime Union official.

Ms Burrow said the UN had no business in local industrial disputes. "What is the UN doing putting an Australian union official in jail?" We have been told it was a peaceful assembly outside the office of Timor Air, which has refused to collectively bargain with its workers in good faith."

She said other unionists at the Dili Airport picket had assured her the protest was peaceful and Mr Killick, the only Australian, had been plucked from the group.

TAS director Tony Penna said from Dili Mr Killick had been arrested after he scuffled with UN police during the picket.

Late last night the UN said Mr Killick had been freed on bail.

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