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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