Children exploited in tobacco industry
Child workers in the tobacco industry in Jember, a province in north Java, are forming their own organisation to protect their rights and improve their working conditions.
The organisation, Paguyuban (solidarity in the community), has been formed with the support of a development agency, Yayasan Swadaya. The children meet regularly to discuss their problems and express themselves in drawings and singing.
In Jember, child workers, mostly young girls, are employed in both the plantations and the factories to sort tobacco leaves. Their working day is usually from 6.30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and in busy seasons they must work overtime and two shifts a day. Their second shift runs from 7 p.m. until late at night.
Child workers earn about Rp1100 (US$0.60) a day, which is Rp300 less than the stipulated minimum wage. A child's wages are reduced if she does not reach the production target set by the management. If a worker is absent for a day, two days' pay is deducted from her salary.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem. Supervisors often sexually abuse the young workers. Many are then forced into prostitution by these same supervisors.
[From the Hong Kong-based Asian Women Workers Newsletter.]