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Gudang Garam workers go on strike as the management refuses their demands

Indonesia Times - November 13, 1997

Surabaya – At least 40,000 workers of the biggest cigarette company go on strike as their 50 pct salary increase demand is refused by the management.

President director of the Kediri-based PT Gudang Garam, Rahman Halim, who met with the workers' representatives yesterday, refused fulfill the workers' demand.

Meanwhile the Manpower Ministry will examine whether the strike was based on normative matters or not.

"As far as the demand based on normative reference, we will help them," the director general of manpower development and supervision, Syafii Syamsudin, said.

The strike, involving 40.000 workers out of 42.500 workers, asks an improvement of their welfare such as salary raising, payment system and others.

So far, even the company profit is reportedly rocketing, the employees live in a misery, one of the workers said. " We do not need more promises. We are starving, not merely hungry."

Rahman Halim told the workers that the demand can not be fulfilled that the management has increased their salary annually. "We have increased the salary each year even twice whenever needed."

However, Halim said that the PT Gudang Garam management will give the overtime wage and work free right for women workers during their menstruation cycle.

He said that currently the Gudang Gram employees get higher wage (Rp 142,000 per month) compared to the official minimum wage scale (UMR).

During the meeting, the president director was accompanied by chairman of the union.

The decision has made the workers disappointed. They told reporters that the decision was unexpected. They even threatened to resume the strike until the management fulfill it.

It was reported that as the ten-minute meeting was completed most of the workers continued their protest while some of them went back to their works.

The public listed PT Gudang Garam, is the biggest clove cigarette in the country and rarely experiences of worker strike.

However Syamsudin said he was disappointed with the strike, as the Gudang Garam, which is located in Kediri, some 150 km from here, is already go public.

According to Syamsudin the workers need to be more patient. Strike, Syamsudin explained further, is the last alternative. It will be better the workers have a meeting with the management, so that the problems can be solved familiarly, he added.

So far the workers of Gudang Garam, the clove cigarette company, have not asked for help to the P4D ( the regional commission for workers' dispute), he said. The P4D is the mediator between workers and the management when there is a conflict, Syamsuddin added.

The workers however, have already proposed their demand since October, but got not enough response from the employer.

Responding to the complaint of the workers, Syamsudin advised them to continually consult it with the company's management. The Manpower Ministry has not deeply involved in this problem, he added.