Raise the Timor-Leste minimum wage, church official says

Workers protest outside the prime minister's palace to demand fair wages
Raise the Timor-Leste minimum wage, church official says

Workers in Timor-Leste march to prime minister's palace on May 1 demanding that the government increase the minimum wage. (Photo Thomas Ora)

The current daily minimum wage in Timor-Leste is outdated and needs to be raised, a top church official says.

Father Adrian Ola Duli, director of Caritas Dili, said the current wage of about US$3.75 was not enough for a worker to afford three meals a day, let alone provide for his family. The monthly wage is $115 a month and needs to be raised to more than $200, Father Duli said.

According to Timor-Leste tradition, a worker supports all people 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, he noted.

Father Duli further said that many families have complained about low wages during his encounters with them.

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

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

"I need an improvement in my salary," said Bosco, a worker at Dili's seaport.

Similarly Jose Conceicao da Costa, general-secretary of the Timor-Leste workers confederation, said during the May Day rally that the minimum wage set by the government four years ago needed revision to meet the needs of workers.

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

Timor-Leste Minister of Labor Ilidio Ximenes da Costa told workers that the government will look at their demands and promised to find ways how to increase the welfare of workers.

He said revision is urgent because the government believes that workers are key factor in national development.

"But change should be gradually, not revolutionary," he said. "Every aspect will be considered for the common goal, including employers."

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

According to a 2013 labor force survey by the International Labor Organization, the service sector employed more than 50 percent of Timor-Leste labor force, followed by agriculture, while the industry sector absorbed 13 percent.

As an alternative, the ministry of labor continues to send Timor-Leste workers overseas where the average salary if often $1,500 per month.

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