Indonesian oil workers win strike

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Indonesian oil workers win strike

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) reports that 8000 Indonesian oil rig workers ended a six-week strike on August 7, after winning many of their demands.

The strikers are members of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) employed in central Sumatra by PT Tripatra, a contractor for Caltex Petroleum, which is a joint venture between Chevron and Texaco.

The workers went on strike on June 21, following PT Tripatra's failure to follow an Indonesian Ministry of Manpower directive to pay the workers compensation and make them permanent employees. PT Tripatra fired all the strikers on July 6 and used the security forces to harass and intimidate the strikers.

On July 23, the security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of strikers, shooting one in the head, and assaulted several others.

The SBSI took its case to the Indonesian parliament, the National Commission on Human Rights and the US embassy in Jakarta on July 29.

The 20-million-strong ICEM mobilised protests by its oil worker affiliates around the world. Among those who took action were two ICEM vice-presidents — Robert Wages of the US union PACE and Fred Higgs of the British Transport and General Workers Union — who immediately lodged protests with Chevron and Texaco.

The ICEM and the US labour federation AFL-CIO organised a demonstration of 150 people at Texaco's Washington offices. This drew media attention in both the USA and in Indonesia.

As a result of the pressure, Caltex and PT Tripatra did an about-face. In an August 6 settlement mediated by a committee of the Indonesian parliament, the union agreed to end the strike and the company agreed to reinstate all the strikers. Although the workers did not win the severance payment they wanted, PT Tripatra agreed that when its five-year contract with Caltex expires in 2003, the workers will have permanent status and will receive full compensation under the law.

Muchtar Pakpahan, general chairman of the SBSI, on August 12 thanked the ICEM, the AFL-CIO and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity for their support of the oil strikers. Together with the union's lobbying effort at the Indonesian parliament, he said, "This work helped bring the strike to a just conclusion. As a result, the 8000 workers at PT Tripatra will work under fairer and more secure conditions."

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