Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Brawl mars settlement at ailing aircraft producer

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Members of trade unions of ailing aircraft producer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (DI) got into a brawl on Wednesday before a bipartite meeting to resolve the workers' objection to their mass dismissal.

The incident occurred at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration. Six people were injured in the scuffle, two of whom were admitted to Bhayangkara Hospital, Ciputat, Tangerang.

The clash erupted at around 7:30 a.m. when 10 members of Dirgantara Indonesia Trade Union (Sekar DI) and CN-235 Trade Union (Sekar CN-235) met 50 members of the Worker Communication Forum Trade Union (SP-FKK), who had arrived earlier.

A.M. Bone, SP-FKK secretary general, said the brawl stemmed from the "discriminatory decision" by the company's board of directors, who dismissed 3,400 SP-FKK members, but re-employed over 6,000 workers, none of whom were SP-FKK members.

SP-FKK chairman Arief Minardi said the bipartite meeting did not reach any resolutions, as the board refused to alter their stance on the dismissal policy, which had government approval.

The bipartite meeting, a forum of employers and employees to resolve any disputes between the two camps, was attended by 300 people representing DI's board of directors, board of commissioners and trade unions.

Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Jacob Nuwa Wea also attended and acted as the facilitator of the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned to Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 at the same venue and a similar agenda.

Nuwa Wea said that at the next meeting, the board of directors should only be represented by five people, while trade unions by seven people.

"Please negotiate to resolve this industrial dispute. We will facilitate it," the minister said.

Nuwa Wea, however, said the dismissal would be executed, as DI could not maintain 9,300 employees.

The dismissal must be carried out transparently and in accordance with the law so that workers could accept the decision, he said.

Should the workers still reject the dismissal at the next meeting, the Central Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes (P4P) would settle the dispute, Nuwa Wea said.

Arief said his party could not accept the dismissal due to improper procedures.

Rather than immediately dismissing the workers, DI should first reduce their working hours, dismiss contractual workers and stop bonuses, particularly to the board of directors, he said.

"If these steps had been taken but the firm still suffered financial losses, the it could cut down on the number of workers. But a dismissal must be the last resort," he said.

DI executive director Edwin Sudarmo said the company suffered Rp 8 trillion in financial losses over the last five years.

Thus, the company had to undertake financial, business and human resources restructuring to save it, he said.

Dirgantara Indonesia was the country's biggest project under the government of president Soeharto. The fall of the long-time ruler in May 1998 pushed the Bandung-based state company to the brink of bankruptcy, as it failed to find buyers.