Tensions rise as workers for Apple contractor plan strike
The Jakarta Post
Authorities in Batam, Riau Islands, have called on thousands of workers from a major local company to drop plans to begin a three-week strike on Monday, claiming the move could cost employees their jobs and hurt the local economy.
Batam Free Trade Zone Management Agency (BPK FTZ) public relations and promotions director Purnomo Andiantono said the concerns emerged after some 2,000 workers from PT Amtek Engineering Batam last week announced a plan to stage a collective strike from Monday until the end of the month to demand clarity on their employment status following the company's recent decision to change its name.
'Amtek management is furious because the company won't be able to take upcoming orders from clients should the workers stage the strike,' Purnomo told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
Earlier on Friday, Purnomo, BPK FTZ goods traffic director Tri Novianta Putra and representatives from local labor unions held a closed-door meeting to discuss the latter's demands.
The meeting, which was also attended by representatives from the Riau Islands Police and Batam's Manpower Agency, however, ended in a deadlock with the workers insisting that they would strike.
After the meeting, Purnomo said Amtek, through its legal advisor, had informed the BPK FTZ that the company was considering closing its Batam factory should workers refuse to immediately return to work.
'The company said it would move its operations to Vietnam should the strike continue. We are also unhappy with this situation. Workers, meanwhile, should understand that they will lose their jobs if the company closes down its operations here,' he said.
Amtek became a subcontractor of cell phone producer Apple when the latter bought US-based company Interplex.
The Singaporean company has been in operation in Batam since 1996, carrying out metal stamping and forming. It has an investment value of US$60 million.
Separately, the Indonesian Metal Workers Federation's (FSPMI) Batam chapter official, Suprapto, said workers were unsettled because the company's name change was made without informing them and they feared it could affect their positions.
'The company recently changed its name on its website, email [addresses] and other [documents]. This made workers question whether the change would put their service period back to zero. The company, however, could not explain this,' he said.
In July last year, Amtek's parent company, Singapore-based Amtek Engineering Ltd., officially changed its name to Interplex Holdings Ltd.
Tri, meanwhile, gave his assurances that the name change would not affect workers' employment status, saying the strategy was intended to increase the company's brand awareness in the international market.
'We will also investigate the possible involvement of any [third] parties in planning the strike,' he said.
Last year, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo instructed the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to investigate alleged foreign involvement in labor rallies in Batam that led to investors leaving the industrial zone.
Allegations of foreign support for workers have been made by the government since a large-scale and chaotic protest in 2011 that involved at least 10,000 workers on the island.
At least six were injured, including one person who was shot, while three cars were severely damaged during the rally, which aimed at demanding a minimum-wage increase.
Every year since, especially at year-end when the government sets the new minimum wage, workers have conducted large-scale rallies.
Suprapto, meanwhile, said the strike was held purely to uphold workers' employment rights. 'We are not a threat. We just want to see the core problems settled,' he said.
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