Tue, 21 Mar 2000

Airport employees go on strike, flights continue

JAKARTA (JP): Some 100 airport employees went on strike at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Monday demanding national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia restore their status as government employees within the airline.

The move did not disrupt Garuda's flight schedules.

The strike began at 4 a.m, the beginning of the company's first working shift of the day.

"There was only one flight delay, but it was caused by a technical matter, not by the strike," said Bambang Wahyudi, president director of PT Gapura Angkasa, the sole provider of ground handling services to PT Garuda Indonesia.

"We have assigned employees from the company's other divisions to handle the jobs of the employees on strike," said Bambang.

The protesters, who are employees of PT Gapura Angkasa, vowed they would strike until the management of Garuda met their demand.

The protesters staged a sit-in at several spots in the airport, including on the first and second floors of departure terminals E and F.

The protesters did not carry any pamphlets or posters expressing their demand, and failed to draw the attention of passengers.

Baharuddin, a passenger, said he had no problem claiming his luggage.

"I found no obstacles in getting my luggage," said the Garuda passenger, who arrived at the airport from Ujungpandang at midday on Monday.

PT Gapura Angkasa is a private joint venture company established by PT Garuda Indonesia and airport management firm PT Angkasa Pura.

Garuda transferred 1,600 ground staff employees to the private company in 1998, as part of its restructuring program after it suffered significant losses due to the depreciation of the rupiah.

Some 1,200 employees of the company work at the international airport, with duties including checking in passengers and their luggage.

One of the protesters, H. Panggabean, accused the airline of intimidating its employees into moving to PT Gapura Angkasa.

"The company threatened that if we did not move to the company we would be fired," he told The Jakarta Post at the airport.

No avail

Panggabean, an employee at the lost and found luggage department, said the employees had filed their complaint with Garuda management and the House of Representatives and made their demand known in December last year, but to no avail.

Elman Haloho, another PT Gapura Angkasa employee, said Garuda had broken its 1998 promise that the employees would receive employment benefits equaling those they received when employed by the airline.

"But we have never received any such benefits from PT Gapura Angkasa," he said.

Elman said he noticed that people working for PT Gapura were treated differently from those working for PT Garuda.

"The employees of PT Garuda received annual bonuses twice the amount of ours. The bonuses were distributed early this year.

"Garuda employees also had their salaries increases three months ago," he said.

"Meanwhile, the salaries of PT Gapura employees will only be raised at the end of this month."

The management of PT Garuda offered to discuss the demand with five protesters, but the employees rejected the offer.

"We want all employees involved in the strike to be included in the discussion," Elman said.

Dozens of police personnel safeguarded the airport, but no incidents occurred.

Achdiat Mihardja, who provides legal assistance to the employees, said some 30 representatives of the protesters were having a meeting with Bambang Wahyudi until Monday night. (asa/41)