Global perspective Human stories

New labour code brings international standards to East Timor

New labour code brings international standards to East Timor

The head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today signed into force a new labour law ensuring that international standards of worker protection would be recognized in the soon-to-be independent territory.

"It's an appropriate time to remind ourselves as to why any society requires legislation regulating the rights of workers and employers," Sergio Vieira de Mello said at a signing ceremony, which was part of East Timor's May Day celebrations.

"The Labour Code will put in place a labour administration system that is democratic, transparent and participatory. It ensures that workers, employers, and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] have the opportunity to participate in both formulating and implementing labour policies and programmes," Mr. Vieira de Mello added.

The result of an extensive two-year consultation process with workers, employers, NGOs and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), the Labour Code establishes minimum internationally accepted standards for hours of work, vacation and sick leave and maternity benefits.

The new law also outlaws exploitative child labour and expands on the functions and duties of the Department of Labour and Solidarity, giving it the authority to reduce or eliminate discrimination in employment, and to assist women, minors, the disabled and disadvantaged workers.

The Code also sets up a dispute settlement mechanism, including possible arbitration with a Labour Relations Board.

"The Labour Code had undergone a legislative process characterized by consensus building and compromises," Mr. Vieira de Mello said. "It is a comprehensive Code that complies with international standards and I sincerely hope that it will provide a sound basis for regulating the rights and interests of workers and employers in this country for the coming years."