Mandiri Bank, the largest in Indonesia, has operated since 2003 in Timor-Leste's capital, Dili. Mandiri is one of small number who operate in the growing finance sector of the recently independent Asian nation. They, alongside others including Australia’s own ANZ, have enjoyed a growth in business in the years since their arrival.
Similarly, a small but dedicated trade union movement have started the task of organising workers following Timor’s independence.
Serikat Pekerja Bank Mandiri Timor-Leste (SP-BMTL), or the Mandiri Bank Workers’ Union (MBWU), was established in 2006 and represents 41 of the 42 workers employed by Mandiri in their Dili office.
However, in recent months bank workers have faced a severe pushback in their right to conduct union activities in the workplace.
On November 30, 2011 Joaquim Gonzaga was dismissed by General Manager, Mr. Mohamad Yani, following an ongoing dispute regarding Yani’s attempt to by-pass collective decision making processes that had been in place at the bank since 2003 and instead appoint a friend to a newly created position at the bank.
Attempts made by the union to reach a settlement in the dispute backfired when Helder Barreto (also chair of the union) was also sacked for attempting to organise a meeting between bank management and the MBWU’s larger affiliate, the General Workers Union of Timor-Leste (GWU).
In response to the seconding dismissal, staff led a protest and demanded that the bank reinstate both workers. This protest failed, and the vice-chair of the union, Leonardo Bele Bau Amaral, became the third casualty when he was also dumped by the bank for organising the staff protest.
According to the Constitution of Timor-Leste, “Dismissal without just cause or on political, religious and ideological grounds is prohibited”. Furthermore, Section 51 stipulates that “every worker has the right to resort to strike, the exercise of which shall be regulated by law”.
The MBWU has continued to engage in peaceful and legal industrial action to protest the decision made by Mandiri management, but still Joaquim, Helder, and Leonardo are still without their jobs.
It is essential that workers’ rights are defended wherever they are attacked. Express your support and solidarity with the union movement of Timor-Leste and say to Mandiri Bank: NO to union busting, YES to workers’ rights.
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These three individuals are also elected officials of the Mandiri Bank Workers Union (MBWU) of Timor-Leste. Joaquim, Helder, and Leonardo have contributed to Mandiri's growth in Timor-Leste, and prior to their dismissal none of the workers had received any warnings or reprimands for poor work practices or unprofessional behaviour.
It is the understanding of KSTL, the peak union body in Timor-Leste that Joaquim Gonzaga was suspended from his duties on 23 November 2011, and then arbitrarily dismissed a week later for advocating on behalf of union members around the issue of perceived favouritism by yourself in attempting to appoint a friend to a new vacancy at the Dili office.
We also understand that this has not been the first occasion that Joaquim, and other elected officers of the union have had their job security threatened for advocating on behalf of union members. The subsequent dismissal of Helder Barreto and Leonardo Amaral, also officers of the Mandiri Bank Workers Union reinforces my concern that Mandiri is not serious about recognising and respecting workers rights.
Given that there had been no fair cause for their dismissal, we see the actions of the Mandiri Bank as arbitrary, and not in accordance with the Constitution or Labour Act of Timor-Leste.
Despite the MBWU having engaged in peaceful and legal industrial action, as well as participating in a triparite mediation process with the government and management in an attempt to resolve this dispute, Joaquim, Helder, and Leonardo are still without their jobs.
As such, I wish to express my support to the demands put forward by the Mandiri Bank Workers Union and KSTL and ask that:
1. The management of Mandiri Bank immediately and unconditionally reinstate the three union officials who were unfairly dismissed; and further
2. That Mandiri Bank respect workers rights in the finance industry and allow workers to organise and defend their rights as per the Constitution of Timor-Leste.
I look forward to your reply and appreciate your consideration.