Thursday, December 23, 2010

ETAN letter on labor dispute at US Embassy in Dili

Campaign updates from APHEDA are here.

Ambassador Judith Fergin
US Embassy
Dili, Timor-Leste

December 22, 2010

Dear Ambassador,

We are writing regarding the dismissal of Mario Baretto and the subsequent refusal of the US Embassy in Timor-Leste to meet with his union.

We understand that the embassy will not meet with Mr Baretto's trade union, the General Workers Union of Timor-Leste (SJTL), about the dismissal arguing that "as part of the terms of his employment, Mr Baretto was/is not allowed to be a member of any organized union and therefore we will not meet with any representative acting on his behalf."

This position is contrary to international human rights law, and we urge you to quickly meet with his union representatives as called for in the Timor-Leste's Labor Code. If needed, we urge the Embassy to accept mediation before Timor-Leste's labor board to resolve the dispute about Mr. Baretto's dismissal.

The right to form and to join trade unions is a fundamental human right, included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The International Labor Organization Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, which Timor-Leste ratified on June 16 2009, also protects the right to unionize.

As you know, the U.S. Department of State each year publishes an annual report on human rights in countries around the world. The chapter on Timor-Leste in this year's report observes that "The country has a labor code based on the International Labor Organization's standards. The law permits workers to form and join worker organizations without prior authorization." The report notes a number of the practical obstacles to the effective exercise of labor rights, to which we would now add the U.S. government.

The U.S. speaks regularly about the need to strengthen the rule of law in Timor-Leste. It has funded a number of programs over the last decade aimed at that goal. Howerver, its words would carry more weight and its actions more credibility, if the embassy were in compliance with Timor-Leste's labor law.

We urge the United States government and your embassy to honor its obligations under national and international law by meeting with Mr. Baretto's representatives and accepting mediation before Timor-Leste's labor board.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

John M. Miller
National Coordinator
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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