East Timor: Union officials, workers arrested

October 15, 2011

On October 11, the general secretary and national organiser of General Workers’ Union (GWU), as well as 17 workers, were arrested by police while preparing for a peaceful protest in the office of East Timor's justice ministry.

The protest was being staged to support the demands of 19 workers sacked unfairly by the ministry.

The arrested workers preparing to protest were dismissed from the Turismo Hotel because of the unfair decision of the justice ministry towards their management in closing the business.

The dismissed workers are all members of the GWU who had been active in attempts to negotiate with the employer and the government over compensation and continuing their employment with the new management.

The union said the aim of the arrests was to protect Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and intimidate workers from speaking up for their rights.

The president of Pick Union Body in Timor-Leste (KSTL), Jose da Conceicao da Costa, said the arrests were an abuse of power of the government member.

“Lobata wants to take advantage of the business,” he said, “that is why she decides to kick out the current management and give the contract to another businessman so she can be benefited.”

Formal protests were lodged by the KSTL with the Timorese government and parliament over the intervention of the police and the role of the minister in the sacking of the workers, and to urge the police to release those arrested.

KSTL called on the government and parliament to take serious actions to settle the matter as quickly as possible.

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