Mon, 14 Jul 2003

Aircraft firm suspends thousands of employees

Yuli Tri Suwarni The Jakarta Post Bandung

State-owned aircraft company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PD DI) has decided to suspend indefinitely 9,670 employees involving 33 divisions in a bid to cut costs and save the firm from bankruptcy.

However, up to 4,000 of them -- especially those involved in the production of aircraft ordered by Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand and the production of wings for the Boeing A 380 -- would be asked to report to work after one or two weeks.

"This is not a closing down, layoff, or lockout, but a suspension that we have to undertake for the next six months until we have adequate job opportunities," said president director Edwin Soedarmo, accompanied by director for commerce Budi Wuraskito.

During the suspension, all workers will still get their monthly salary minus transportation and food allowance.

Edwin said the suspension was aimed at salvaging the company which continued to book losses due to high operational costs in the past few years.

He gave his assurance that the suspension would not affect projects currently handled by the company.

PT DI is currently working on two CN 235 ordered by Malaysia's Royal Air Force which are scheduled to be delivered in September 2004 and March 2005 respectively.

The company is also working on four CN 235 ordered by Pakistan which will be delivered by the end of 2003 and June 2004. It is also manufacturing the wings of a Boeing A 380.

According to Edwin, his company spent Rp 35 billion each month for salaries, transportation, and the meal allowance of its workers as well as for water, electricity and telephone charges. The suspension is expected to reduce costs by 20 percent.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia, formerly known as PT Nurtanio, was established by former president B.J. Habibie in 1986 and became the first Indonesian company to produce aircraft.

The CN-235 is quite popular with countries such as South Korea, Kuwait and other Asia countries.

During former president Soeharto's leadership, the company received funds from the state budget to finance its operations. Such an arrangement, however, ended following the forced resignation of Soeharto in May 1998.

The decision to suspend the company's operations was immediately rejected by the workers, who insisted that they would come to work on Monday.

Employee union chairman Arief Minardi said the employees would not accept the unilateral decision to suspend them and would continue to come to work as usual.

"Although we cannot enter the office, we could do our work on the sidewalk, even under the heavy guards of the Paskhas," he said, referring to the Air Force's elite troops.

They further questioned their fate after the six month suspension.

They said they would bring their case to the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and other related government institutions.

The closure of the compound also affected dozens of patients at PT Dirgantara Indonesia hospital, which is located inside the compound.

The patients, mostly suffering from dengue fever, were transferred to other hospitals in Bandung such as dr. Salamun, Hasan Sadikin and Yudistira Hospitals.