Thu, 11 May 2000

Workers insist on staying overnight at DPR building

JAKARTA (JP): Former workers of PT Kong Tai Indonesia said on Wednesday they would continue staying at the legislative building in Central Jakarta until the management of the Reebok shoes producer met their demand for proper severance payment.

"We, representing some 4,760 former workers of PT Kong Tai Indonesia, will stay here until our demand is met by the management of the company," protest coordinator Sarwoto told reporters at the House of Representatives/Peoples Consultative Assembly (DPR/MPR) complex.

The workers said they would avoid violence if the city police tried to force them from the complex.

"We will seek a compromise to settle the matter. If they (the police) don't allow us to stay here, we'll ask them to move us to another area, so long as we remain in the building's compound," said Karel Sahetapy, deputy chairman of the West Java chapter of the Clothing and Leather Workers Union (SPTSK).

Karel said the former workers had strong grounds to stay at the complex.

"Often legislators forgot to follow up protesters' demands once the protesters leave the building. By staying and waiting here, we'll always get the legislators' attention and remind them to fight for our interests," he said.

The workers were dismissed from the company on Oct. 1 last year due to the economic crisis, without receiving any severance pay. They have repeatedly aired their demand, including by staging a street protest on Jl. Gatot Subroto in February which caused a severe traffic jam.

City police chief Maj. Gen. Nurfaizi and deputy House speaker A.M. Fatwa agreed on Tuesday that protesters were not allowed to stay at the House complex after 6 p.m., although they were free to air their protests from the morning till late afternoon.

Sarwoto said the city police had persuaded them to leave the compound only hours after the meeting.

"On Tuesday night, dozens of police personnel led by Lt. Col. Aqil persuaded us to leave the compound. We moved out and slept on the porch of the nearby DPR Baiturrahman Mosque," he said.

"The police let us stay overnight there. But we don't know what will happen tonight (Wednesday night)," he said.

The workers, carrying their daily necessities packed in cardboard boxes, returned to the Nusantara II building compound on Wednesday, where they have been staying since Feb. 21 this year.

In a corridor in the building, in an area near a toilet, the former workers reestablished their temporary shelters.

Clothing and towels were hung everywhere, while sandals, toiletries, leather mattress, a volley ball and even a fishing rod were spread around the floor.

The former workers, men and women, were sitting and sleeping side-by-side in groups in every corner of the space.

Their presence in the building has drawn negative comments from some people, including legislators. A.M. Fatwa said used condoms had reportedly been found in some toilets in the House complex.

Sarwoto denied the allegations, saying they were part of an attempt to shift attention from the legislators' unsuccessful efforts to fight for the workers' interests.

"If the legislators cannot fight for our interests, just say so. We have never had sex here," said Sarwoto.

Interviewed separately, other people in the building were of a different opinion.

"They (the former workers) make our work harder as they usually leave rubbish after conducting protests," said a man identifying himself as Ronny, an employee of cleaning service company PT Kartika Dwi Candra.

Pudjo Santoso, a staffer in the House's maintenance department, however, said the former workers were well-behaved.

"Sometimes I see them cleaning up their garbage. They also haven't broken anything in the building," he said.

Mardian, a senior security official, said security at the complex was quite good despite their presence there.

"Two motorcycles were stolen recently, but that was because the owners had not parked them in the building's parking lot," he said.

However, Mardian said it would be better if protesters did not come to the complex in large groups.

"It makes maintaining security here difficult. It would be better for them to send some representatives here." (asa)