26 April 2016

Health and safety for all workers, not only those in mining & petroleum

Informasaun kompletu iha Tetum iha ne'e.
See La'o Hamutuk's web page for the full submission in Tetum

On 4 March 2016, Timor-Leste's State Secretariat for Professional Training and Employment Policy (SEPFOPE) circulated a draft Decree-Law on Employment in the Extractive Activities for public comment. The proposed law would create a specific legal regime for workers in the petroleum and mining industries, supplementing or replacing the Labor Law 4/2012 which applies to workers throughout the formal economy. SEPFOPE held a workshop on 10 March to discuss the draft with stakeholders.

Although labor rights are not a fundamental part of La'o Hamutuk's work, SEPFOPE's consultation was well-conducted (it is exceptional for a Government agency to ask for input, providing translations of a draft law with enough time for comment before sending it to the Council of Ministers). Therefore, La'o Hamutuk decided to apply our knowledge about extractive industries, especially oil and gas, to write a submission (Tetum) to this consultation process.

The main points of our submission, which also suggests a number of specific changes to the draft, are:

This Decree-Law should follow principles of equality for every worker, rather than creating a privileged class of workers in one sector. It should conform with international human rights covenants.

We agree with many provisions in the draft Decree-Law, and they should be incorporated into the Labor Law and applied to all workers in Timor-Leste. These include:
  • Health and safety insurance
  • Pension fund, which should be expanded to include workers in the informal sector through a Government-managed pension scheme funded by taxes on companies.
  • Minimum wage should be the same for all sectors.
  • Protection of women against abuse or discrimination, and recognition of their childbearing responsibilities
  • If bonuses (in addition to the 13th month salary applicable to all workers) are legally mandated, they should apply to all employed workers.
  • Occupational safety and environmental protection should apply to all sectors, and whistle-blowers should be protected. However, particularly hazardous work, such as some mining jobs, may require special rules.
The law should define minimum standards while recognizing the right of workers to organize and to secure greater benefits through collective bargaining and contract negotiation.

Penalties for employers who violate this law should be severe enough to encourage compliance.

Education at all levels should be improved to prepare Timorese workers for higher-skill, higher-paid jobs in extractive and other industries.

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