Solidarity with the Workers of PT Shamrock in Medan, Indonesia
On September 8, 2004, 200 police attacked the striking workers of PT Shamrock in Medan, Indonesia. Several workers were injured, also some police. This was the most brutal attempt so far to suppress the building up of an alternative union in this shop. At first, the firm dismissed 14 workers involved in building up the union. Now, more than 800 have been laid-off because of the solidarity strike. At planned negotiation meetings at the labor ministry office the firm either doesn't show up or keeps rigidly to its position. They've been going along fine with the old state-run union SPSI from the days of the dictatorship -- at the expense of the workers.
The young workers (70 per cent of the staff are women) are determined to continue their struggle. This is why we call on you to send letters and faxes of protest to the firm's address demanding that they re-employ the laid-off workers and recognise the principle of freedom to organise.
Further information is unfortunately mostly only available in Indonesian language. There is documentation on the struggle on the new website of Kelompok Pelita Sejahtera (KPS). We have reported again and again to our daily press review Asien Aktuell (in German language). There is a short video clip on the eviction, but in poor quality.
A New Union!
In 2003, a few workers of PT Shamrock in Medan, North Sumatra, began building up a new union. They decided to join the small but active local union SBMI -- Serikat Buruh Medan Independen, Independent Workers Union Medan. Their former union, recognised by the firm, hadn't done much for them. The firm was late paying the wages, forced employees to give notice themselves, initially refused to pay the hike of the minimum wage, and let the safety installations rot. Amongst the workers' demands are also two days menstruation leave without having to produce a doctor's certificate, and the renunciation of temp work and outsourcing. In a short period of time, at least 700 production workers, i.e. the majority, signed the membership rolls of the new union. A three day strike in March 2004 resulted in first successes.
The firm immediately confronted the activists. A total of 14 of them were fired. At first, the former president of SPSI who had resigned from his office and now supported SBMI was transferred to a plantation, later he was accused of theft and denounced. For a while, the police put him under arrest.
Contact to SBMI through the Website of KPS ( in English or, if possible, in Bahasa Indonesia )
On the 9th of August 2004, around 800 SBMI members went on strike against the dismissals. Since then, the strikers have been active every day. They either demonstrate in front of responsible administration offices, like that of the Ministry of Labor where they accompany the negotiations, in front of the Parliament building when their representatives are there to demand the support of the competent commission, or they demonstrate at the governor of the province of Sumatra. Most of the time, though, they try to occupy both gates of the factory to try and convince their colleagues of the necessity to strike. Some 300 production workers who are still SPSI members are continuing work.
The firm's reactions are militant. On August 17, 200 thugs attacked the strikers in front of the factory, some people got injured. In Indonesia, groups of thugs are often hired to intimidate workers. Especially in Medan it is almost normal. The police are present but don't intervene and also don't do anything afterwards to find out who the attackers were.
But the administration reacted quite differently when on September 6 SPSI held a demonstration in front of the police administration demanding that the police should guarantee free access to the factory for those willing to work and put their former president under arrest once more. It was only two days later that police attacked the strikers in front of the factory, beat some of them up, arrested more than 150 of them to only release them many hours later.
PT Shamrock Manufacturing Corp. produces rubber gloves especially for medical use. All in all, the factory has 1700 employees. In Indonesia, other rubber commodity factories in Medan and Tangerang (near Jakarta) also belong to the enterprise, furthermore two rubber tree plantations and a processing plant for the raw material. They belong to Globe Shamrock Inc. in Houston, Texas, USA.
PT Shamrock Manufacturing Corporation
Indonesia: Shadows from the Past
Since the fall of the dictator Soeharto in 1998 there exists something like a civic democracy. But the reactionary forces from the military, to the parties, and old cliques have kept their positions and managed to strengthen their influence again during recent years. Corruption and nepotism are worse than ever. There is a free press, but it is also getting more and more under pressure, as is shown by the conviction of editors of the magazine Tempo.
The workers have been fighting before the dictator's fall and are still continuing to do so. Hundreds of unions have come into existence, and despite the Asian Crisis they have been able to more or less maintain the same level of the living and working conditions. But here, too, the shadows from the past are still present: the SPSI (Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia -- All Indonesian Working Peoples Union) was the only acknowledged "union" under the Soeharto dictatorship. No wonder employers don't see problems with this SPSI organising their workers.
Indonesian workers get very low wages. The regional or local minimum wages are about 600 000 Rupiah, slightly more than 50 Euros a month. Indonesia has quite good labor laws, but much of it is only valid on paper. Sometimes firms obey to it, often they don't. This is why most of the strikes in Indonesia set socalled "normative demands". They just ask for what is guaranteed by the law. But this also means that the workers can only live according to these minimum conditions of the labor law when and if they are able to fight for it.
Labor Group Condemns Brutality - Laksamana.net 2002
Workers Protest attack by 'thugs' - The Jakarta Post, August 24, 2004
Gangsters Attack Shamrock Labour - KPS Sept. 18, 2004
Black Strategy From PT Shamrock Manufacturing Corpora – KPS Sept. 29, 2004
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