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More than 1,000 sacked after protests

Agence France Presse - February 24, 1999

Jakarta – More than 1,000 workers at an Indonesian household appliances company were laid off after staging a nine-day protest in the eastern city of Surabaya to demand pay rises, legal aid officers and press reports said Wednesday.

Some 500 sacked workers Tuesday went to a local legal aid office to complain about their dismissal, but police allowed only ten of them in and sent the rest home, the Kompas daily said.

Director of the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute Indro Sugianto told AFP there was a dispute between the workers and the electronics division manager, who he said had not allowed the workers to say their Moslem prayers.

"That dispute had been settled by SPSI (labor union) and they could start work on Tuesday," Sugianto said.

But on Tuesday the workers saw a factory announcement demanding they applications if they wanted to go back to work, he added

Kompas quoted Suharto, the head of public relations at appliance manufacturer PT Maspion, as saying the workers had been absent from their jobs for 22 days.

They violated a labor regulation by leaving work for more than five consecutive days, Suharto said, citing a ministerial labor decree. Sugianto said the company had no grounds to fire the workers, adding it should have obtained permission from the central labor dispute dettlement office (P4P).

"As long as there's no permit issued by P4P, the working relation [with the company] is still in effect," said Sugianto.

According the Republika daily, the company fired the workers because the electronics division in which they worked was closed down.

"The company also demands we sign a statement not to stage demonstrations again," laborer Saeful was quoted by the daily as saying.

After days of mass protests by the workers, the owners and management PT Maspion, a giant electronic and household goods producer, last week agreed to meet employees' demands.

The company said in a statement that negotiators had agreed to raise by 25 percent the daily bonuses given to Maspion workers at its five factories in and around Surabaya to cover escalating prices from 2,000 rupiah (about 22 cents) per person per day to 2,500 rupiah.

The statement also said the raise, effective April 1, would lift the lowest monthly wage for employees with less than one year's service by 7.3 percent to 220,000 rupiah (about 25 dollars).

The protestors held daily rallies in the for nine days, involving up to 20,000 workers from the company's five factories. They also protested at the local parliament in Surabaya and the governor's office.

At least 20 workers were injured during the protests when soldiers and police fired warning shots and tear gas and mounted a baton charge to stop them entering the city, witnesses said. Reports said five workers were arrested.