Strikes spread in Indonesia


By Jana D.K.

JAKARTA — More than 1,000 employees stopped work on September 13 at the PT Halco factory in Bekasi Raya, East Jakarta, which produces pots, pans and other household items. Shouting demands, workers erected banners and posters around the factory grounds.

They are demanding a wage rise, overtime pay, payment for transport and meal allowances and health insurance. The failure of the company to comply with safety regulations was also raised, with demands that all employees be provided with protective clothing, gloves and face masks.

Demands were also made for sick leave payments and guarantees against arbitrary dismissal for taking time off work. Many employees stated that although they had been with the company for more than five years, they still had no real job security.

Company management refused to speak with reporters when they attempted to ask about the failure to comply with the regulations.

The following day, 200 employees went on strike at PT Winapeto Plastindo in Semarang, Central Java, which manufactures plastic cord, bags and canvas. Workers occupied the factory grounds, refusing to return to work until their demands were met.

The workers, the majority of whom were women, are demanding payment of the minimum wage, which for Central Java is Rp2100 (A$1.50) per day. Workers said they got only Rp1600, and the company frequently refused to pay them until a particular job contract was completed.

Workers also want menstrual and pregnancy leave, meal allowances increased from Rp150 to Rp400 and the work week reduced to 40 hours. Although no details are yet available, after negotiations an agreement was reached.

On the same day, 200 employees struck at the PT Can Cooperation factory in Pluit, North Jakarta. Workers are demanding a wage increase from Rp3000 to Rp3500 per day and payment of a Rp3000 monthly bonus. They complained that employees who had been with the company for 15 years or more were still receiving only Rp3500 per day.

Members of the Koramil (local military) and Polsek (sector police) were called in almost immediately to "keep watch" over the situation, but took no action against strikers.

By mid-morning discussions began between workers and management but quickly bogged down over the issue of how many worker representatives would be able to participate. The company insisted that no more than five representatives would be accepted. Workers argued that since none of them had more than a junior high school education and they lacked negotiation skills, this would weaken their position.

When no agreement was reached, the management asked the North Jakarta office of the Ministry of Labour to mediate. After lengthy discussions, it was agreed that 30 representatives would be allowed.

Before the negotiations could begin, however, yet another dispute broke out over requests by the management that the names of the worker representatives be provided first. Workers feared that these would be handed over to security personnel. The Ministry of Labour representative eventually persuaded workers that there would be no reprisals, and the names were provided.

Management then tried to delay proceedings by arguing that the company would have to investigate the workers' claims first and would need a week to do this. Workers responded that unless an answer was given immediately, the strike would continue indefinitely and they would take their protest to the parliament.

By 2 p.m., an agreement was announced by the director, who told workers that the company was prepared to offer them an increase of Rp200 per day. Upon hearing this, workers broke off negotiations. At the time of writing, the dispute was still unresolved.

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