Sat, 26 Feb 2000

Workers continue protest at House

JAKARTA (JP): Thousands of workers of a closed down shoe factory vowed on Friday to continue their sit-in at the People's Consultative Assembly/House of Representatives compound until their demand was met, a labor activist said.

Some 3,000 workers of PT Kong Tai Indonesia, who were laid off last October, have held a sit-in at the compound for five consecutive days this week, seeking the assistance of legislators to help them get severance pay from the company.

The workers' representatives talked to Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, who promised them he would hold a meeting on Monday with Minister of Manpower Bomer Pasaribu, representatives of House Commission VI for human resources and an executive of state-owned social security company PT Jamsostek to discuss the matter.

Amien said that if the discussion ended in a deadlock, he would ask President Abdurrahman Wahid to help solve the problem. Amin said he would do this as an ordinary citizen and not in his capacity as speaker of the Assembly.

Amien advised the workers to be patient until all parties involved in the discussion could work things out. He promised them the problem would be solved within a week.

"We cannot wait any longer and neither can the workers. We will not wait until the situation gets out of control and becomes sensitive," he told reporters, explaining that some of the workers had been forced to sell their belongings to support their families.

Amien told the protesters not to worry because the factory's assets could be sold and the proceeds used to pay them.

The Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, an arbitration body tasked with settling disputes between laborers and company owners, decided on Dec. 3 that each worker was entitled to receive twice the amount of money stipulated in a manpower ministry regulation, excluding the obligatory two months' salary.

The company's Hong Kong shareholders, represented by lawyer O.C. Kaligis, rejected the decision and only agreed to pay the amount stipulated in the regulation.

Sarwoto, a labor union official, explained that according to the committee's decision, the company should pay some Rp 23 billion compensation to the more than 4,600 workers it laid off.

Several laborers told The Jakarta Post that they would continue their sit-in and spend another night at the House compound because they had no money to pay for accommodation and they had no other place to go.

"Some of us will stay here not only because we need a solution, but also a shelter," one of them said. (06)