Unfair Dismissal of Trade Unionists in IndonesiaSix trade union officers, five men and one woman, of Yota Megah Company in Indonesia are threatened of dismissal for their union activities addressing problems faced by workers in the factory.
The six trade union officers are Yusuf (chairperson), Ahmad Siswanto, Nursamsi, Iwan Chandra (vice-chairpersons), Mohamad Salim (secretary) and Jaeni (vice-secretary). They have been working for the company since 1994, producing garment and apparel in Nusantara Bonded Zone in North Jakarta.
Yota Megah company was set up in 1989, employing over 800 workers most of whom are women. The company produces Adidas and Kappa sportwears for America, France, Italy and Canada. Within just 10 years, the company has grown tremendously and has taken over a couple of apparel companies. The gigantic growth is possible because of the poor working conditions that keep production costs to a minimum.
Workers in the factory are not numb to the exploitative conditions. Between 1994 and 1996, workers have staged five wildcat strikes on issues of overtime work, payment date, medical allowance, and menstruation and annual leaves. In April 1997, around 800 workers went on strike again when the company decided to postpone adopting the regional minimum
Attempts of mediation have been made by the local labour department but management was not ready to give in. All the workers in the factory went on another strike on December 19-22, to no avail. Things took a sharp turn when six of the union officers who took part in the bargaining process were suspended. They were charged of inciting workers to strike and not to work overtime, and of intimidating workers. All of them appealed to the Ministry of Labour and other relevant authorities. Meanwhile, their posts in the unions were filled by new officers hand-picked by management.
But they have not been forgotten by their fellow workers. On March 23, 1998, after waiting in vain for positive solutions to the unfair suspension, the workers staged a half-day strike inside the factory. They demanded the company to withdraw the suspension against the six union officers and improve workers' welfare and benefits. Management simply stayed away and refused to talk with the strikers.
Finally, on March 25, the workers' representatives had a meeting with management, branch union officers and officials from the labour department. In the meeting, the company admitted that the six union officers were fired because of their activities demanding wage payment on due dates. No agreement was reached though. The strike went on even though some workers were intimidated by the police. Faced with their
courage and perseverance, the labour department and management decided to beat them with iron fists: they threatened the strikers with an ultimatum, saying that if they still stayed on strike for another five days, they would be considered as resigning.
CAW has issued a protest letter condemning Yota Megah Company for the unfair dismissal of the six unionists and intimidation of workers who took part in legitimate union activities. For further information, you can contact Urban Community Mission-Jakarta, Jl. Pondasi 55, Kampung Ambon, Jakarta 13210, Indonesia. Tel/Fax: 62-21-4759411. Email:
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Asian Women Workers Newsletter