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By Elizabeth Pisani
345 words
28 February 1991
Reuters News
(c) 1991 Reuters Limited

JAKARTA, Feb 28, Reuter - About 250 members of Indonesia's independent trade union Solidarity took a protest over pay and conditions to parliament on Thursday in the fledgling group's first public demonstration.

Solidarity leaders said members of parliament for the ruling Golkar party refused to meet them but that representatives of the military promised to work for recognition of the unofficial union.

"We met with military members (of parliament) and they were quite willing to listen and said they would take our case to the interior ministry," Solidarity president Johannes Princen said.

The right to organise labour is guaranteed under Indonesia's constitution. However, in the 25 years of President Suharto's rule union activity has been monopolised by the government-backed All-Indonesia Workers' Union (SPSI).

"The SPSI, what good are they? In our factory the representative is appointed by the company management and takes their line on everything," said one textile worker demonstrating outside parliament.

"That's why we went running to Solidarity. They are our only hope," another worker said.

Solidarity must register with the interior ministry before it gains official recognition. Ministry officials have refused to meet its delegates.

Demonstrators from the PT Lansano textile factory said they were forced to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. One man who had been with the firm 19 years said he was still paid the minimum daily wage of 2,600 rupiahs (1.40 dollars).

Workers from wood processor PT Kayu Indra Abadi Terus said the company had moved from Jakarta to neighbouring West Java, where there is a lower minimum wage of 1,800 rupiah (95 cents).

"The company didn't want to go on paying the higher Jakarta wages so they fired more than 150 workers," Solidarity secretary general Saut Aritonang said.

Golkar members of parliament said the workers should take their complaints to the official union.

"That means the ruling group in parliament doesn't have the guts to stand up for the constitution," Princen said.


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