Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Garuda to operate normally despite threatened strike

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Playing down the threat of industrial action from its pilots, Garuda Indonesia management reassured the public on Friday that the airline would operate as normal.

President director of the airline Indra Setiawan said that the public should not worry about the possibility of industrial action and every flight would keep to its normal schedule.

"None of Garuda's flights will be disrupted by the threat and the company will operate as normal," he said at a media conference here.

Indra predicted only about 20 of the airline's total 628 pilots would insist on taking the plan further, and therefore would not cause any significant disturbance to the airline's operations.

"They only account for a small number, while we will be supported by the majority, who are more sensible," he said.

He also said that the management was ready to meet the challenge from the pilots and had come up with a contingency plan of its own, but refused to reveal the details.

However, Indra hinted that the management would recruit pilots from outside Garuda, if necessary.

"We are ready to take whatever measures are necessary, to make sure that we will not be affected by the threat," he said.

Garuda Pilots Association threatened on Tuesday to take industrial action if the management refused to meet its new pay demand.

From Jan. 26 through Feb. 1 pilots will take part in a "labor slowdown", causing an hour's delay to all flights.

The next action would be from Feb. 2 through Feb. 9, during which the pilots would delay flights for five hours if the management continued to reject their demands.

On Feb. 10, the pilots would ultimately go on strike if no pay agreement were reached.

The industrial action and strike, if they take place, would certainly hurt Garuda as it is working hard to create a reputation as a punctual airline. They are also feared to disrupt the country's air transportation as the national airline carries more than 40 percent of air travelers on domestic routes.

Indra considered that the management had been very accommodating over the new pay structure demanded by the pilots.

However, in view of the company's financial condition, Garuda could not agree to the salaries demanded by the pilots.

"We have allocated about 40 percent of our salaries budget to the 628 pilots, compared with 60 percent for over 6,000 other employees," he said.