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Jakarta Post

Unpaid salaries put Merpati in hot seat

  • Mustaqim Adamrah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 27, 2014   /  09:53 am

Ailing state-owned carrier PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines ceased all flights on Saturday, then resumed them on Sunday following a previously planned strike initiated by pilots against overpaid management.

According to data from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport'€™s information desk, all four scheduled flights were canceled on Saturday, while two Merpati planes out of the six scheduled in total departed on Sunday morning.

There was no confirmation for departures scheduled for 11:40 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. both to Surabaya, East Java, and arrivals scheduled for 3:05 p.m. from Merauke, Papua, 5:45 p.m. from Timika, Papua, and 7:40 p.m. from Surabaya until 7:50 p.m. on Sunday.

'€œWe deliberately ceased our operations on Saturday and shifted all flights on that day to the next day,'€ Merpati corporate secretary Riswanto Chendra Putra said on Sunday, adding it was part of the company'€™s restructuring program monitored by the state-owned Asset Management Company (PT PPA).

However, he said, Merpati helped those who insisted on flying on Saturday by arranging alternative flights.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan failed to respond to The Jakarta Post'€™s queries on the situation.

Riswanto explained that Merpati had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with PT Armagedon Indonesia and PT Bentang Persada Gemilang to restructure the company.

He said Merpati was establishing subsidiaries PT Merpati Maintenance Facility International and PT Merpati Aviation Services, both of which were previously Merpati'€™s business units.

The debt-strapped company has been required to restructure its operations due to mounting debts, which according to the ministry'€™s recent data, account for as much as Rp 6.5 trillion (US$533 million), with large parts belonging to state oil and gas firm PT Pertamina as well as airport operators PT Angkasa Pura I and PT Angkasa Pura II.

Riswanto admitted that Merpati, which is in survival mode during its operational restructuring program, had not paid basic monthly salaries of its staff members, including pilots and cabin crew, for two months.

He said the management would soon pay the salaries around March or early April, adding that the management had also started paying, for example, meal and flying allowances.

Erry Wardhana, head of Merpati'€™s workers union advisory board, said some 200 Merpati pilots planned to strike again next Saturday for an indefinite period until the management paid the salaries of 1,600 employees.

He said it was the first time Merpati workers had launched a strike over unpaid salaries and they had received their salaries in installments since capt. Asep Ekanugraha assumed office on July 31, 2013.

'€œWe'€™ve only received our November salaries, paid on four separate occasions, but have yet to receive December and January salaries, which are usually paid on the 26th of every month,'€ he said on Sunday.

Erry added that workers had fully received their November meal and transportation allowances on Jan. 22.

Manpower and Transmigration Ministry spokesman Suhartono said the ministry was ready to mediate between the management and workers if they failed to settle their problems in a bipartite forum. (koi)

Merpati'€™s history

Established on Sept. 6, 1962

Oct. 26, 1978: Becomes a subsidiary of national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia.

June 12, 1978: Starts to fly pioneer routes.
1995-1996: Begins international route services to Port Headland, Melbourne and Darwin in Australia, and to Singapore and Malaysia.
April 29, 1997: Officially separates from Garuda.

2008: The government agrees to inject Rp 300 billion into Merpati as additional capital to improve the company'€™s performance.

July 31, 2013: The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry officially appoints Capt. Asep Ekanugraha after his predecessor, Rudy Setyopurnomo, fails to improve the company.

Nov. 12, 2013: The government decides to keep the airline flying and help find investors to repay its debts and fund a route expansion. The Asset Management Company (PT PPA) proposes to liquidate Merpati as it doubts the airline'€™s capacity to grow and pay its debts.

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