Subject: Aus: Timorese claim pay discrimination

"Timorese claim pay discrimination" Paul Toohey, The Australian, Fri 22nd Nov 02

Three Timorese men working in the Darwin-based Timor Gap Joint Authority have been suspended on full pay after they asked their Australian bosses why they were paid less than their Australian colleagues.

The incident has upset East Timorese members of the joint authority, and executive director Egidio de Jesus was preparing to fly to Darwin from Dili last night to speak to his Australian counterpart, executive director Robert Mollah.

The men, Antonio de Sousa, Orlando Xavier and Vicente Lacerda, say they were 'surfing' on the office computer when they found a list of staff salaries. They went to a supervisor to discuss their concerns that 'less experienced' Australian staff were paid more than them.

Mr Mollah suspended the three on November 14, telling them to go away and 'review the joint authority's privacy policy'.

Mr Lacerda said Mr Mollah 'humiliated' them in a public dressing down in which he said they were not trustworthy. The three men said the information was 'on a public file on drive H, a shared drive' and no password was needed to examine it.

The men, a geologist, a microbiologist and a mining engineer, said they were not complaining about their pay (believed to be $36,000 a year for 2 men and $18,000 for the other, a trainee), but they felt they were discriminated against because they were 'treated differently from Australians'.

Geoff Hull from the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union represented the East Timorese at a meeting with Mr Mollah on Wednesday. He says he accepted that the Australians were paid more than the Timorese because they had more skills, but was concerned about accusations of breach of confidentiality.

'I believe there wasn't a breach,' he said.

The joint authority oversees exploration activities for the petroleum resources in the shared petroleum zone and will be disbanded when the Timor Sea Treaty is ratified by the end of this year. 

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