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Surabaya dock strike exacts costly toll

Straits Times/Bloomberg - June 19, 1998 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta – A port workers' strike entered its fourth day yesterday in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city and gateway to East Java province, causing losses of millions of rupiah, according to port officials.

Said an official at the Tanjung Perak port: "The strike is still on today. At least 30 ships carrying goods are waiting to be served. "It is not clear whether an agreement between the workers and the management can be reached." He said he had heard that workers had held talks with port officials yesterday. However, no one had returned to work yet, he added.

The official declined to say what kind of goods had been brought by the waiting ships. It was not immediately clear if any loading or unloading was being done at all.

The workers want their wages increased to 15,000 rupiah (S$1.80) a day from the current 7,116 rupiah. They want working hours to remain the same at seven per day. The management has said it can pay no more than 9,000 rupiah. On Wednesday, the dockworkers, some of them stripped down to their underwear, marched to the regional parliament office in support of their demands for higher pay.

More than US$3.83 billion (S$6.55 billion) of exports or 7 percent of the national total, passed through Tanjung Perak last year. Imports that came in last year were worth US$6.16 billion, or almost 15 percent of the national total.

The strike has cost the port authority, PT Pelabuhan Indonesia III, about US$70,600 in lost income, as two foreign vessels could not be unloaded on Wednesday, said Mr Purwanto, a company official. The companies servicing the dock have lost about 608 million rupiah in fees so far. On Wednesday, 49 vessels were waiting to be unloaded at the dock side, while another 170 were moored in the harbour, Mr Purwanto added.