Jayapura, Jubi – Workers from PT Tandan Sawita Papua in Keerom Regency, East Arso District, have filed complaints with the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) after being laid off. The workers allege that they were fired without any prior warning or adequate compensation.
Yosep Langoday, deputy of the All Indonesian Labor Union (SBSI) in Keerom District, revealed that these workers had served at Tandan Sawita ranging from three to eleven years. The laid off workers include Agustinus Doko, Hendrikus Tua, Brunosius Yohanes, Beneditus Budi and his wife Maria Mega Mode, Inocentius Toke Wane, Germanus Meda and his wife Marsela Wonga, Krispianus Meze, Daniel Lokobal, and his wife Marlince Doga.
Langoday explained that the case originated when Elina Endoi, a plantation worker at the company died after being bitten by a snake on May 5, 2023. The company management had initially promised to assist in sending Elina's body to her hometown in Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara Province. However, Elina's family found the provided coffin to be inadequate, as it only reached her knees. Angered by this, the family brought the coffin back to the company's office in Amiyu Village, which led to a confrontation causing damage to the office premises.
Following the incident, PT Tandan Sawita Papua reported it to the Keerom Police on May 6. On May 30, the Keerom Police called in 30 witnesses for questioning, leading to the detention of 11 individuals. However, their detention was later suspended with the assistance of Payubuhan Flobamora Keerom.
On June 15, a meeting took place between Yudi Harsono, the HCCS Manager of PT Tandan Sawita Papua, and Yosep Langoday, accompanied by three other workers. During the meeting, an agreement was reached wherein PT Tandan Sawita Papua would withdraw the police report filed on May 6, 2023.
Under point b of the agreement, the workers expressed their willingness to be terminated alongside their wives. Point c stated that the dismissed workers would vacate the housing (barracks) within 3 x 24 hours.
The following day, on June 16, PT Tandan Sawita Papua sent termination letters to nine workers and three workers' wives who were also employed by the company. Yosep Langoday criticized the dismissals as inappropriate since they were not preceded by warning letters.
"The proper procedure is to issue a warning letter first. That is the responsible approach the company should have taken. Direct termination is not justified," he said.
Langoday sought legal assistance from LBH Papua and the NGO Gempur Papua, feeling that his labor rights were violated and justice was not served. He believed that he was being treated as a criminal due to his role as a labor union leader, as he was detained at the Keerom Police Station.
According to Langoday, the company provided varying compensation amounts at the Keerom Police Station on June 16. Workers with a tenure of up to three years received Rp 3 million, while those who worked for more than three years were given Rp 6 million. However, Langoday argued that this compensation does not align with Government Regulation No. 35/2021, which addresses fixed-term employment agreements, outsourcing, working and rest time, and employment termination. He questioned the basis for the Rp 6 million compensation amount.
One of the workers, Marsela Wonga, shared that she was summoned by the company manager to sign the termination letter. However, Wonga refused, asserting that she was not involved in the office vandalism incident.
"I want to return to work, but the company would not care. Now, I don't know where to live," she expressed.
Another worker, Daniel Lokobal, disclosed that he had been employed by PT Tandan Sawita Papua since 2013. He had opted for casual daily labor status to avoid complex administrative procedures. When he was terminated on June 16, he received only Rp 6 million for his entire tenure since 2013.
Lokobal now faces uncertainty in finding new employment and is temporarily residing in Arso 6. "Until now, we have been living in the company-provided barracks," he informed Jubi.
LBH Papua director Emanuel Gobay said that the dismissals conducted by PT Tandan Sawita Papua were invalid. He emphasized that the agreement letter created on June 15 held no validity and could not serve as the basis for laying off these workers.
Gobay stated that the conditions for a valid agreement are outlined in Article 1320 of the Civil Code. According to this article, an agreement is considered valid if it is based on the consent of the parties involved, their legal capacity to enter into an agreement, a clearly defined subject matter, and a lawful cause.
"We observe the fact that these workers were criminalized, despite not committing any crimes. The company unilaterally accused them and coerced them into signing termination letters by using the threat of a police report. Such an agreement contradicts the principles of a valid agreement as recognized in Article 1320 of the Civil Code," Gobay explained.
Gobay further argued that the layoffs were not in line with the Principles of Employment Development stated in Law No. 13/2003 on Manpower. He emphasized that companies have an obligation to take measures to prevent layoffs from occurring.
"The proper procedure would involve issuing warning letters. In this case, no warning letters were given. Instead, direct terminations took place. This demonstrates a lack of respect from the company towards employees who have dedicated years of service," he remarked.
Gobay announced that they would report this matter to the Keerom Manpower Office, as it pertains to an issue of industrial relations. He highlighted that the incident originated from a work accident, but the workers were not professionally handled, leading to their frustration.
Gobay believed that the situation should have been managed by the company's Human Resources department instead of involving the police. "We will file a complaint with the Keerom Manpower Office," he stated.
Yudhi Harsono, the Papua Region HCCS Manager of PT Tanda Sawita Papua, could not provide information due to illness. "I am currently sick. I will provide information when I am feeling better," Yudhi stated via a WhatsApp call on June 19. (*)