Subject: GLW: World Vision workers strike

Green Left Weekly, Issue #401 April 12, 2000

EAST TIMOR: World Vision workers strike

DILI -- Sixty East Timorese workers at the aid agency World Vision walked off the job and demonstrated on April 3, demanding an explanation from management for the sacking of eight security guards.

World Vision management claimed the organisation lacked funds and needed to reduce staff, an explanation which failed to convince the workers who demanded to be told the full story of their employer's financial position. If it's as bad as management say it is, maybe World Vision should leave East Timor, the strikers argued.

Strikers demanded an assurance from World Vision that it would stop treating them as "objects", would cease arbitrary sackings without notice and would stop bringing more workers into the country.

World Vision asked for a representative of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) to mediate but, as World Vision was unwilling to go to the CNRT office, the workers called on Avelino da Silva, the secretary-general of the Socialist Party of Timor and a member of the National Consultative Committee which advises the United Nations, to represent them. Da Silva also demanded that World Vision explain in full its reasons for the sackings.

Management eventually gave in to some of the workers' demands, agreeing to pay six weeks' wages in lieu of notice and to give each worker building materials sufficient for an eight-metre by nine-metre house. Workers warned that they would bring more people out to demonstrate if the agency did not cease arbitrary sackings.

World Vision's programs in East Timor include one for the provision of roofing kits in Bobonaro, Ermera, Liquica and Aileu districts, as well as others in the areas of health, food and agriculture.

Meanwhile, on April 7, workers at the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) went on strike, citing broken management promises to pay workers a 5000 rupiah ($1.25) meal allowance.

The strikers were also unhappy that those driving road vehicles received higher wages than those operating heavy vehicles and machinery, and that wages were frequently paid late. They demanded an increase in daily wages and overtime rates and that a workers' compensation scheme be put in place.

UNHCR forklift drivers, employed on a 10-day contract, receive only 40,000 rupiah ($10) a day.

The workers have decided to continue their strike, in the absence of a response or offer to negotiate from UNHCR management.

BY AKARA LEON AND VANJA TANAJA


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