Thu, 04 Mar 1999

Insurance employees seeking justice over unpaid salaries

JAKARTA (JP): All 60 employees at the head office of privately owned PT Buana Putra life insurance company, lodged complaints at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute on Wednesday, saying that their salary had not been paid since last August.

Workers' spokesman Helfiandri said their salary -- averaging Rp 1 million each -- had been suspended by their boss, who argued that the company was suffering financial difficulties due to the economic crisis.

"The firm's owner kept on promising us payment, but his words have come to nothing," Helfiandri said.

The company, which has at least 13 branch offices outside Jakarta, runs its business at headquarters by giving "transportation costs and meal allowances only" to employees, he said.

According to the workers, branch office colleagues had so far not faced such severe cost cutting measures.

Buana Putra's owner, Subagyo Sutjitro, who also came to the institute, told his employees that he has considered selling the firm's assets, worth Rp 40 billion in order to be able to settle the workers' salaries.

"As soon as we sell the assets, we'll pay you all," Subagyo said, asking his employees to be patient.

Representing the workers, lawyer Rhino Subagyo from the institute, warned Subagyo that should he fail to promptly pay the employees' wages the workers would bring the case to court.

"We will sue you and ask the court to seize the firm's assets and Subagyo's private assets as well.

He has a responsibility to his staff," Rhino said.

Some of the workers have been employed at the firm's head office on Jl. Suprapto in Central Jakarta for 15 years.

The company still has 24,000 customers in the city, Rhino said.

"The firm still has savings but they are used mainly to pay insurance claims to customers," Rhino added.

The lawyer, however, questioned Subagyo's refusal to pay the workers' salary, when staff from the 13 branch offices continued to be remunerated.

"It seems inconceivable that the owner does not have enough money to pay all its employees," he said.

Spokesman Helfiandri reminded the company that workers would demand severance payments from their employer, as stipulated in the existing manpower regulation, if Subagyo decided to dismiss them due to continuing poor company performance. (jun)