Wed, 22 Mar 2000

Protesting airport staff not allowed to work

JAKARTA (JP): Thirty-two airport employees who took part in a strike on Monday at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport were prevented by their superior from performing their daily jobs at the airport, said a lawyer representing the employees on Tuesday.

"I've suggested the 32 employees speak to their superior over the matter," Achdiat Mihardja, a lawyer representing the protesting PT Gapura Angkasa employees, told The Jakarta Post.

Achdiat said the 32 employees met with Bambang Wahyudi, the director of PT Gapura Angkasa, on Monday night after the strike.

"It was agreed that the protesting employees would be given the opportunity to meet with the management of PT Garuda Indonesia to discuss their demands," he said.

"I'm surprised to find that the 32 employees were prevented from working a day later."

The protesters demanded national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia restore their status as government employees within the airline.

PT Gapura Angkasa is a private joint venture company, co- established by PT Garuda and airport management firm PT Angkasa Pura. It's the sole company providing ground handling services to PT Garuda and other airlines checking in passengers and their luggage.

Garuda transferred 1,600 ground staff employees to the private firm in 1998, as part of its restructuring program after it suffered significant losses due to the depreciation of the rupiah.

The protesters want better company benefits, such as a salary hike, similar to wages earned by their colleagues in Garuda.

H. Panggabean, one of the protesters said the 32 employees were from boarding gate department of PT Gapura Angkasa.

"Officials from PT Garuda prevented them from returning to work. PT Garuda have asked PT Gapura to substitute the protesters with PT Gapura employees from its branches in Bali and Surabaya," he told the Post on Tuesday night.

He said the banned employees worked at terminals E and F in the airport.

"We will ask for an explanation from PT Gapura about returning to work while awaiting the meeting with PT Garuda management," said Panggabean, an employee at lost and found luggage department at PT Gapura.

Pujobroto, Garuda spokesman, dismissed the allegation that officials at the airline had prevented them from returning to work.

"It's an internal matter of PT Gapura. Our interest is for the passengers to receive proper service from our company, a part of which is carried out by PT Garuda," he told the Post.

He said PT Garuda concentrated attention on this airport since it is the busiest airport in the country.

"On Tuesday alone, there are 62 flights to domestic and international destinations," he said.

Monday's strike did not disrupt flights at the airport. (asa)