Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Thousands of former aircraft workers start long march

The Jakarta Post
National News - December 20, 2006

More than 2,000 former employees of state aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara (PT DI) began a march (see photo) Tuesday from Bandung to the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, to demand the government pay them a promised Rp 40 billion (US$4.5 million) in compensation.

The march began at about 10 a.m. at the Husein Sastranegara Monument, near the entrance to the company's factory on Jl. Padjadjaran.

Hundreds of former workers, their spouses and children, all wearing orange T-shirts, are participating in the march. They were seen off by their legal advocate Haneda Sri Lastoto.

Before the beginning of the more than 100-kilometer march, participants and their supporters held an emotional prayer.

The journey is expected to take 12 days, with the marchers passing through Padalarang, Rajamandala, Ciranjang, Cianjur, Ciherang, Puncak, Cisarua, Ciawi, Bogor and Jakarta.

"This is our final effort to ask the government to show the political will to address our fate, which has been uncertain for the past three years," said Arief Minardi, an official with the PT DI Workers Union.

A total of 6,561 PT DI workers were fired on Jan. 29, 2004, after having been made inactive since July 2003 when the company filed for bankruptcy.

Marchers wore orange T-shirts, many carrying messages like "Demanding the Government Keep Its Promise", and carried banners reading "SBY -- Forever Bluffing" and "MJK -- What About Your Promise".

The wife of a former employee, Dina, 39, said she was participating in the march with her husband and 10-year-old daughter because it concerned her livelihood.

"I'm tired of the promises. My husband and I have participated in hundreds of rallies, which has depleted our savings. I'm here to demand our compensation because our children have to continue their schooling," said the mother of three.

About 1,350 of the 6,561 fired workers initially refused to accept the offered compensation from the company. They agreed to the compensation after the Central Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes approved their dismissals.

However, the company then said it could not afford to pay the money, which would have totaled about Rp 200 billion. The central government stepped in and prepared Rp 40 billion from its budget to pay the compensation in stages, with the rest of the money to be paid by the company from a profit-sharing scheme.

However, the Dec. 15, 2006, deadline to the distribution of the compensation passed with the workers receiving no money, reportedly due to a bureaucratic snag at the Finance Ministry.

"We want the money, not just empty promises," said Arief. He added the march would be halted if the government transferred the due funds to every former employee's bank account. (JP/Yuli Tri Suwarni)



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