Sunday, October 01, 2006

Jamsostek transfers union leaders out of Jakarta

National News - September 26, 2006
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The management of state-owned insurance company PT Jamsostek has transferred two leaders of the Jamsostek Workers Union (SPJ) to far-flung branch offices as an internal battle rages on.

SPJ chairman Abdul Latief has been reassigned to Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, while secretary-general Rizak Rangkuti has been transferred to Belawan, North Sumatra.

Both Latief and Rizak confirmed their new assignments and called the action "without reason and unacceptable".

"I reject the decision. I'm requesting an unpaid annual leave to lead the labor movement until the government reforms Jamsostek and fires the president director," said Latief.

He told The Jakarta Post on Monday that Jamsostek management was also taking punitive actions against another eight senior officials who have supported efforts to have the company's top executive dismissed for alleged corruption.

Rizak, 54, will reach his mandatory retirement age next year. He insisted he had not committed any major offenses.

Both unionists believe their transfers are connected with their role in the union's no-confidence motion against president director Iwan P. Pontjowinoto in July.

The workers' union demanded the government fire Iwan, whom they accused of abusing his power in order to enrich himself and his cronies as well as mismanaging company assets worth Rp 33 trillion (about US$3.6 billion).

Iwan declined to comment on the action he had taken against Rizak and Latief, saying it was an internal affair.

He also said the friction between management and employees was not discussed during a company conference in Bali last week.

The removal of the unionists met opposition from an expert staffer, Basani Situmorang. He sent a letter to the management warning that the action was illegal and could be punished by a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of Rp 500 million.

Basani, who is also a former chief of the legal bureau at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, said the management should reverse the decision and trust the government, as the main shareholder, to resolve the dispute.

State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto has been reluctant to respond to the union's actions, which have gained full support from the House of Representatives, for fear they could set a bad precedent for other state-owned companies.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno has called for a total reform of the social security programs. He wants the company to be turned into a trust fund so that government would not have power over its internal affairs, including the appointment of the board of directors.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also criticized the company, saying the management has signed agreements to improve the social welfare of workers but has followed through on very few of them.

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