Subject: GLW: ET Workers battle IMF agenda
EAST TIMOR: Workers battle IMF agenda
BY VANNESSA HEARMAN
MELBOURNE — Zito da Costa, president of the East Timor Confederation
of Trade Unions (Konfederasaun Sindikatu Timor Leste — KSTL), one of
several trade union groupings in East Timor, addressed a small gathering
at Trades Hall on August 21. Da Costa was attending the Australian Council
of Trade Unions congress.
Da Costa said that KSTL's main aim was to “improve the living
conditions” of the people. “Those staffing the union are all
volunteers”, da Costa explained, “because workers still have to be
convinced that trade unions are their organisations, which they should
sustain and own”.
The KSTL is composed of seven trade unions, which represent musicians,
nurses, doctors, construction workers, horticulturalists and, since
February, transport and shipping workers. With the assistance of the
Maritime Union of Australia, the shipping and transport union is slowly
beginning to organise.
Da Costa said that the East Timorese constitution protected workers'
rights “100%”, but the implementation of its provisions has been
severely lacking. He complained of the lack of a minimum wages board and
an arbitration board.
Prices for basic commodities, such as rice, sugar, fuel and cooking oil
— which were subsidised under Indonesian rule — now vary wildly from
market to market. Da Costa argued that the East Timor government needed to
“set the prices in internal markets”.
Da Costa criticised the so-called poverty reduction strategies of
United Nations agencies and the international financial institutions,
which are supported by the Dili government. “At a recent UN Development
Program seminar in Dili, it was argued that we need to reduce poverty, but
agricultural minister Estanislau da Silva said that having a minimum wage
would deter foreign investors”, da Costa reported. KSTL is involved in a
committee to examine the impact of international financial institutions in
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported to donor countries in
December that it had advised the Timorese government against setting
minimum wages, price controls and subsidies.
According to da Costa, the installation of prepaid electricity meters,
which were recommended by the IMF, began in early August. The move was met
with popular protests.
The meters will worsen social inequality, da Costa noted. “One house
would enjoy electricity because they can afford it, while the house next
door will be in darkness.”
The Timorese government has awarded a three-year management contract to
run East Timor's power supply to the Macau Electricity Corporation.
From Green Left Weekly, September 3, 2003.
Back to September menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu