|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
"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
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
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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