Solidarity needed for Indonesian trade unionists

Messages of support and a letter of protest were presented to the Indonesian Consulate in Sydney on February 1.

Solidarity released this statement on January 30.

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Trade union activist Sulthoni Farras, a leader of the Indonesian union federation Progresip, union alliance Sekber Buruh, and member of Indonesian political organisation KPO-PRP, is in danger of arrest for leading a strike last year. Another activist, Bona Ventura, may also face charges.

The Indonesian government and bosses are using these kinds of tactics against a growing workers’ movement in Indonesia.

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Dear Comrade/Friend,

We are writing to ask your solidarity for a number of unionists in Indonesia presently in danger of being arrested and charged for taking part in lawful industrial action.

Below is some background to their situation in Indonesia. Sulthoni Farras, a leader of the Indonesian union federation Progresip and union alliance Sekber Buruh and member of Indonesian political organisation KPO-PRP was summoned to appear before the Bekasi police on Monday January 28.

The police indicate that he is formally a suspect of “misconduct” in a strike that took place on the September 7 last year at the factory of PT Dongan Kreasi Indonesia, located in the Hyundai Industrial Zone of Cikarang, Bekasi.

Sulthoni remains at risk of arrest and being formally charged with “misconduct”. In addition to Sulthoni, another KPO-PRP member, Bona Ventura is now being sought to answer charges of defamation.

Several other union activists and leaders from various regions have also received summons notices in relation to a range of strikes, some dating back to 2010. They also face a range of accusations from misconduct to falsifying union documents and defamation.

This is the latest tactic of the bosses and the police in Indonesia to try and stop lawful union activity. While the Indonesian labour movement has been growing particularly strongly since 2010, the bosses and police with the support of the Indonesian government have cracked down on activists, violently breaking up protests, threatening workers and now attempting to intimidate and criminalise union activists.

It is not illegal to form a union and carry out union activity in Indonesia. It is outrageous that activists and workers are being treated as criminals. They have done nothing illegal in organising and taking part in strike action.

The workers at PT Dongan took the brave step of forming a union in September, that became affiliated to the union federation Progresip. They have since been fighting to receive permanent worker status, rather than being on uncertain work contracts. They have also fought for basic worker rights such as maternity leave and a reasonable meal allowance. They held a peaceful strike on September 7 that forced the Korean company PT Dongan to negotiate with the workers.

However, since forming a union, 67 of the workers have been fired. The union workplace leadership have been called in by the police, and workers at the factory regularly face threats from police and hired thugs. The fired workers have been told that they can work at the factory again but only if they are willing to work for below the new minimum wage. In addition to all this, Sulthoni, the union organiser, now faces accusations of misconduct.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common story in the industrial areas of Indonesia. The Indonesian government is allowing companies a free hand to use thugs to threaten and harm workers. Now the police are trying to criminalise legitimate union activity. This is completely unacceptable. Rather than investigating trumped-up charges of misconduct and defamation, the police should be investigating union-busting and the use of hired thugs.

[Please send messages of support to kpo.prp@rakyatpekerja.org.]