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Workers at IPTN protest and down tools

Tapol - October 12, 1997

[From Media Indonesia 10 Ooctober and Kompas 11 October 1997, Summarised.]

Thousands of workers at Indonesia's prestigious aerospace industry, IPTN, went on strike on Wednesday, forcing the management to shut the factory down till the end of the week. The lock-out did not prevent workers from entering the premises and pressing their demands in front of the central management office.

It appears that most if not all the 15,000-strong workforce were involved in the action.

Media reported that on Thursday, the protests were better organised than on the previous day, with banners and posters unfurled and workers banging tins, oil-drums and other metal containers.

Police and military were on hand but did nothing to prevent the protests from going ahead. But they made contact with president-director B.J. Habibie who was in Jakarta who rushed to Bandung, where the factory is situated, to hold discussions with the workers.

The workers presented ten demands and decided that they would give the management till Monday to respond to these demands. They said they might suspend their actions while discussions were underway but would resume if by Monday, the demands had not been met.

The key demand is for a 200 per cent increase in wages and for the non-discriminatory allowances such as incentives, coverage of medical costs and so on, to ensure that those receiving higher wages do not enjoy favourable rates. They are also demanding that medical costs for employees and their families should be covered fully by the company. Another demand is for the company cooperative to be run by the workforce. Also, promotions should be performance-related and not based on family connections.

After holding talks with 124 workers, representing the 31 divisions in the factory, Habibie promised to lift restrictions on coverage of medical costs for employees and their families. At present the ceiling for refunding medical costs for lower-level employees is Rp 200,000 while for top-level personnel, it is one million rupiah.

Claiming that he 'fully understands' their complaints, the IPTN boss said that it would be extremely difficult for the company to meet the other demands because of the parlous state of the finances of the strategic industries (all of which are under his control). He said he would be unable to take decisions on the other demands without consulting the share-holders and the government.

[This is the first time to our knowledge that workers at Indonesia's most prestigious industry have been involved in industrial action. The company, run by one of Suharto's closest cronies, B.J. Habibie, is handling highly-favoured projects funded by the state, on Suharto's explicit instructions. This strike action will help explode the myth that the IPTN is an efficiently-run company with a well-paid workforce enjoying the benefits of working for the country's technically most advanced company.]