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Call to increase wages

Dili (UCAN): Father Adrian Ola Duli, director of Caritas Dili, said Timor-Leste’s current wage of about US$3.75 (29) was not enough for a worker to afford three meals a day, let alone provide for his family, adding that the monthly wage of US$115 (892) needs to be raised to more than US$200 ($1,550).

According to Timor-Leste tradition, a worker supports everyone living in his house, not just a spouse and children. It is common in the country for a household to be home to several families, Father Duli noted.

On May 1, more than 400 people from a number of labour federations protested outside the prime minister’s palace in Dili demanding the government revise the minimum wage regulation enforced in 2012.

One protester, Joao Bosco, said he joined the rally because existing regulations on the minimum wage were no longer relevant.

Bosco, a worker at Dili’s seaport, said, “I need an improvement in my salary.” 

Jose Conceicao da Costa, general-secretary of the Timor-Leste workers confederation, said during the May Day rally that the minimum wage set needed to be revised to meet the needs of workers.

“The price of basic commodities increases from time to time,” he said.

Timor-Leste’s minister of Labour, Ilidio Ximenes da Costa, told workers that the government would look into their demands and promised to find ways to improve the welfare of workers.

He acknowledged that minimum wage revision was urgent as the workers are a key factor in national development. However, he said, “Change should be gradual not revolutionary. Every aspect will be considered for the common goal, including employers.”

Da Costa said, “If every year we demand an increase to the minimum wage, I am afraid investors will hesitate to invest in our country. We need foreign investment.” 

According to a 2013 survey by the International Labour Organisation, the service sector employed more than 50 per cent of Timor-Leste’s labour force, followed by agriculture, while the industry sector absorbed 13 per cent.

As an alternative, the ministry of labour, continues to send workers overseas where the average salary is often US$1,500 ($11,630) per month.

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