Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: Workers Online: ACTU takes up case of ETese CARE workers

Workers Online 07 April 2000

Free East Timor? For the Workers, It's Just Cheap

The ACTU has taken up the case of East Timorese workers being employed by international aid agencies including CARE Australia for just 40 cents an hour.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet has formally asked CARE Australia to review its labour relations with East Timorese workers and enter talks to set decent pay and conditions.

The intervention follows complaints at the low rates of pay and lack of conditions for East Timorese working for aid agencies in the newly independent territory and the refusal of agencies to enter into meaningful negotiations on the industrial relations issues.

They are being employed under the following conditions: 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, no pay if ill, half an hour for lunch, no injury compensation, no drinking water provided, no transport to and from work, and no contracts, all for $A4 a day.

The ACTU chief has written to CARE Australia acting chief executive Robert Yallop arguing that as the relief effort moves from crisis to reconstruction attention should be given to

Currently East Timorese staff employed by Care Australia/Care Canada are attempting to negotiate a set of wages and working conditions more aligned to the core labour standards and more in keeping with the UN Secretary General's nine human rights principles as expressed in his global compact.

"As reported to us Care Australia/Care Canada is refusing either to take the workers claims seriously or to enter into meaningful negotiations," Combet says in the letter.

"We mention Care Canada in this regard as we understand that it is Care Canada which is the lead agency for Care's activities in East Timor. To that end we will be in touch with the Canadian Labour Congress (the equivalent of the ACTU asking them to also raise this issue with Care Canada."

Combet has asked CARE to provide a copy of the guidelines/policy which governs the employment, including wages and working conditions- hours of work; policies related to illness, injury and compensation; occupational health and safety as well as training and skills transfer, of your East Timorese staff.

He has also asked for information on Care Australia's policies with regard to trade unions and in particular ILO Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association of the Right to Organise) and 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention).

And he has called on Care Australia/Care Canada to take immediate steps to enter into realistic and meaningful negotiations with their East Timorese staff, and that such negotiations be carried out, both in the spirit and the letter of the ILO's core labour standards and the UN Secretary General's nine principles.

"Neither the ILO or the ACTU as one of the social partners of the ILO would find it acceptable if organisations - UN, private companies, or NGOs - were employing workers under such conditions."

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