Tue, 09 Mar 1999

Leftover food leaves hotel employee jobless

JAKARTA (JP): A dismissal from work during this time of economic hardship is a nightmare for anybody, particularly those living in the capital, where the prices of goods and services have skyrocketed.

But the prospect is more scary when it happens to a middle- aged widow with two children.

Djuhro Rohana, 44, an employee in the house keeping staff at the five-star Sari Pan Pacific hotel in Central Jakarta had to face this grim fate.

For her, it was not only the loss of her job she was unhappy with, but the way she was fired.

According to Rohana, she was dismissed on Oct. 19 last year after a hotel security staff member caught her attempting to take home leftover food from its restaurant: five cakes, three oranges and two pears.

This has been confirmed by the hotel's management.

What upset Rohana the most was that her employers did not seem to consider her 22 years of total devotion to the hotel on Jl. M.H. Thamrin.

The loss of this job, for what Rohana sees as a trivial reason, has drastically changed her life.

In a bit to survive and support her children -- one in kindergarten and one a senior high school student -- Rohana has started making local snacks, such as bakwan, to be sold by relatives to their office colleagues.

In an interview with The Jakarta Post on Sunday, Rohana recalled that she was about to leave the hotel one evening when she saw a restaurant waitress packing leftover food to be abandoned to the hotel's garbage container.

"We hotel workers usually expect leftover food," she said, adding that many hotel employees ate restaurant leftovers.

When she asked the waitress if she could take home some of the food, "the waitress gave her permission," Rohana said.

Her nightmare began when a hotel security employee, Djoko, found the food in her possession.

Djoko then asked her to write a statement saying she had stolen from the hotel.

"I thought the letter would be merely a warning letter," she said, adding that she was expecting a suspension.

The following day, Anita, from the hotel's personnel department, shocked Rohana with the news that she was fired.

"I kept on begging her not to dismiss me for such a trivial matter and told her my commitment of working here for 22 years, but the officer did not want to listen to me anymore," she said.

Anita insisted that she was fired, but said she would receive an honorary allowance of Rp 100,000 (about US$12) per month, Rohana said. It was not explained for how long she would be entitled to this allowance.

Rohana opposed the hotel's decision and lodged complaints with several official bodies, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute. She has not received any payment from her allowance.

She has used her savings of Rp 3 million to provide for her family's daily expenses and to start the business.

"I don't know how long my savings will last," she said.

Meanwhile, the hotel's marketing director, Satria Wira, asserted that Rohana's dismissal was legitimate and followed all legal procedures.

"Chapter 53 of the hotel's regulations stipulates that all hotel staff members are prohibited to take any items from the hotel," Satria told the Post on Monday at his office.

Bringing out hotel property in any form is categorized as a serious offense to the regulations and violators would be dismissed without warning, he said.

Satria admitted the hotel did not take into consideration Rohana's 22-year service for the hotel.

"The company will collapse if the rules are not enforced," he said, adding that Rohana's dismissal would discourage the other 670 employees from breaking the rules.

He also dismissed Rohana's demand to get her job back at the hotel, unless the regional committee for labor dispute settlements decided that Rohana should be re-employed at her former workplace.

According to Rohana, she received strong support from her fellow workers at the hotel as well as from the Jakarta office of the Tourism Trade Union.

It is hard to determine who is in the wrong here, but Suryadi, assistant executive of the house keeping department in the five- star Sahid Jaya hotel on Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta, said on Saturday that hotel employees were prohibited from removing all forms of hotel property.

"Residual food is also included in the hotel's property," he said. (01)