Tue, 22 Jul 2003

PT DI workers plan to sue director

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

The labor union at PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) said on Monday it would sue the state-owned aircraft company's president director, Edwin Soedarmo, for has been called a "unilateral decision" to suspend more than 9,000 workers.

The legal threat comes despite the company's promise to allow around 3,000 workers to return to work in stages starting on Monday.

However, only 150 employees, mostly managers and supervisors, did return to work on Monday. Officials said more would follow in about two weeks.

Cheppy Pamungkas, a lawyer for the Communication Forum for Employees (FKK), said the labor union would file lawsuits with the Bandung District Court and the local administrative court separately on Tuesday.

He said the legal action against Edwin was lawful, arguing that the FKK was treated unfairly when the decision to suspend the 9,643 workers was announced on July 11.

"The suspension decision did not involve the workers and it therefore was procedurally illegal, because it was only agreed upon by only two of the five directors," he said.

The two directors were Edwin and business operations director Budi Waskito, while the three who were excluded from the decision-making were technical director Budi Setiawan, finance director Pudji Sulaksono and human resources director Sudarma.

Cheppy said the labor union had demanded that Edwin annul the suspension of all the workers, but it was ignored.

He spoke to journalists as around 2,000 workers continued their protest outside the company's compound on Jl. Padjajaran in Bandung.

Businessman and singer Setiawan Djodi appeared to show his solidarity with the protesters.

Cheppy urged Edwin to delay the suspension, pending the outcome of the lawsuits.

He argued that under Law 13/2003 on manpower, the decision to lay off workers should have been made by the board of directors after negotiations with employees.

The directors then should have notified the internal trade union and the provincial manpower office seven days before PT DI locked up the plant and suspended the workers, he added.

Apart from being charged with violating labor laws, Edwin is also being sued for deploying special Air Force (Paskhas) personnel to guard the plant after the lockout.

"Using the military to keep workers out has no legal basis... because it is a security task for the police," Cheppy said.

Edwin had said the suspension resulted from the chronic financial difficulties that had been plaguing the company for years.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, he said that around 3,000 employees would be reassigned to assemble CN-235 passenger planes and to produce spare parts for Airbus A-380 aircraft ordered by British Aerospace.

He said PT DI was currently working on two CN-235 planes ordered by the Royal Malaysian Air Force, which were scheduled to be delivered in September 2004 and March 2005 respectively.

The company is also working on four CN-235s ordered by Pakistan, which should be delivered by the end of this year and in June 2004.

As for the remaining employees, Edwin said the company had yet to decide on what to do about them. "In the next six months, we will do a streamlining program in the company and concentrate on our core business. This will likely lead to a cut in our workforce," he said.