Tue, 15 Jul 2003

Minister backs suspension of DI workers

Evi Mariani and Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Bandung

State Minister for State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi threw his weight behind the management of PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) over the weekend in their suspension of over 9,600 employees, arguing the company was incurring huge losses.

"The government supports the action the management (of PT DI) has taken," Laksamana said on the sidelines of Bank Mandiri's listing ceremony at the Jakarta Stock Exchange on Monday.

The management of PT DI decided last Friday evening to suspend the operations of the aircraft company and asked its 9,670 workers to stay home for up to six months.

The decision angered the workers as the company halted operations without consulting them.

Minister Laksamana said the suspension was temporary and in the employees best interests.

"What the management (of PT DI) has done is temporary in order to cut losses," Laksamana said without elaborating.

Announcing the company's decision to suspend its operations, PT DI president director Edwin Soedarmono said the firm had serious financial problems since it had to spend Rp 35 billion each month for salaries, transportation, and meal allowances for its workers as well as for water, electricity, and telephone charges. The suspension is expected to cut expenses by 20 percent.

Laksamana ruled out the possibility of the government subsidizing the aircraft company.

"I don't think PT DI as a strategic industry that serves people's needs like Pelni (state-owned sea transportation company). So I don't think it deserves a government subsidy. Moreover, our budget is tight," he said.

"But if we all (the management and the government) agree to subsidize PT DI, we will propose the plan to the budget committee (of the House of Representatives)," he added.

The House has decided to summon the management of PT DI and related departments later this week to explain the suspension.

Meanwhile, thousands of PT DI employees staged a rally in front of the West Java Legislative Council, demanding Edwin Soedarmo's immediate resignation as president director.

"We want Edwin to quit as he has illegally suspended the employees and create more problems for the company," said the chairman of PT DI Worker Union (FKK) Arif Minardi.

Local legislator Yudi Widiana Adia, meanwhile, expressed worries over the decision to suspend the workers, saying the move might pose a security threat in the province.

However, he said the employees were in a weak position in this case as they did not have any work agreement with the employer.

Separately, three of the company's directors who were not involved on the decision to suspend the employees, issued an official letter asking Edwin to revoke his decision.

General affairs director Budi Setiawan Taufik, director of technology Sudarma and human resources director Pudjo Sulaksono said Edwin's decision was not endorsed by the board of directors and violated the company's statutes.

They also said that they would not take any responsibility for any negative impacts of the decision.

Most employees also agreed that founder and former president director B.J. Habibie return to the company as its president director.

Habibie, who also served as the country's third president, had reportedly asked for a 5 percent share with veto rights should he return and manage the company.