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By Elizabeth Pisani
335 words
5 April 1991
Reuters News
(c) 1991 Reuters Limited

JAKARTA, April 5, Reuter - The Indonesian government has declared Indonesia's new-born independent trade union Solidarity illegal and ordered that steps be taken against it.

Solidarity secretary general Saut Aritonang, in a letter to President Suharto, repeated the contents of a classified letter from the department of internal affairs to local officials in the Tangerang industrial area.

"We do not, repeat do not, recognise the organisation which calls itself the Solidarity free trade union because it goes against law number 8, 1985," the letter said, referring to a law that requires mass organisations to register with the minister of home affairs.

"We will give them no services or facilities at all, because they are not legal," said the letter which passed on the contents of a message from Home Affairs Minister Rudini dated January 31 to local officials throughout Indonesia.

Solidarity, listed with the United Nations' International Labour Organisation in Geneva, has tried to register with Rudini but has been consistently stonewalled, union leaders say.

The union, which claims some 5,000 members, has not been publicly banned. But several members, including 10 in Tangerang, were arrested after demonstrating at parliament because their factory wanted to drop wages from 2,100 to 1,800 rupiah a day (1.05 dollars to 80 cents a day).

The arrests, two days after the home affairs ministry letter was sent to Tangerang local officials, were described by police at the time as "for preventative questioning".

"What is surprising is that the letter recognises the union is supported by international labour laws and by our national constitution but declares us illegal anyway," Saut told Reuters.

Indonesia's constitution guarantees the right to organise labour and Jakarta, its trade privileges with the United States threatened because of its poor labour record, has been at pains to be seen to be promoting workers' rights.

Solidarity's Saut, in his letter to Suharto, asked that the president revoke Rudini's orders.


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