Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Govt fails to mediate labor dispute at aircraft company

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

While the rally by thousands of state-owned PT Dirgantara Indonesia (DI) workers to protest their layoff continues in Bandung, the government has failed to bring together all the parties in the industrial dispute in the aircraft manufacturing company.

In a meeting organized by Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Jacob Nuwa Wea, no decision was taken since key parties failed to show up.

The company's workers sent around 100 delegates to the meeting while the company's president Edwin Sudarmo and State Minister for State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi did not attend. No reason was given for their absence.

Nuwa Wea invited all relevant parties, including Laksamana, to the meeting to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute.

The management and the workers were involved in a serious labor dispute after the management made an unilateral decision to lay off, with pay, 9,670 workers to help save the company from chronic financial problems.

Laksamana and the Air Force, one of stakeholders in the company, support the company president's decision while Nuwa Wea and former president B.J. Habibie, a cofounder of the company joined the workers in their rejection of it.

As of July 11, the plant has been tightly guarded by security personnel and no workers have been allowed to enter.

Three members of the company's board of directors and all employees rejected the decision saying that the decision was invalid since it was made by only two of the five members of the board of directors and the company's problems were not discussed bipartitely at the company level.

Earlier, Laksamana supported PT DI management's decision to suspend the company's operations and keep its workers at home to cut company losses.

Speaking after the meeting, Nuwa Wea slammed the company president's decision to lay off the employees, calling on Laksamana to annul the decision.

"The decision is against the labor law. To make such a decision, the board of directors should have talked about the layoff with the workers in the first place," Nuwa Wea was quoted by Antara as saying.

Chairman of PT DI Workers Union (FKK) Arif Minardi said after the meeting the decision to lay off workers was illegal. "The decision was solely made by the president director Edwin Soedarmo without consultation with other members of the board of directors, and therefore FKK should not abide by the decision," he said.

He was quick to add that the company's labor union would file a lawsuit against what the employees called an arbitrary decision. The labor union also accused the president director of committing irregularities in running PT DI.

Meanwhile, thousands of PT DI employees continued to stage rallies around the plant compound in Bandung and at the provincial legislative council to reject the director's unilateral decision.

They also called on the provincial legislature and the House of Representatives to pressure the company to annul the decision and help seek a peaceful solution to salvage the company.

Separately, Speaker of the House of Representatives Akbar Tandjung said the decision made by PT DI president director was shortsighted, as the company was one of Indonesia's strategic industries.

"The dispute should be discussed in an open manner either with the company's board of directors or the government institutions overseeing the aircraft manufacturer," he told reporters in Cirebon, West Java.

PT DI had done much to boost the country's image overseas for its ability to manufacture aircraft, therefore its existence should be maintained, Akbar said.

He said the House had decided to summon the state minister for state enterprises and the management of PT DI to explain the controversial decision.