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Paperworkers Strike Indonesian Pulp Mill; Pressure Brings Marubeni to Table


A three-day strike last week by a branch of Indonesia trade union Federasi Serikat Pekerja Pulp Dan Kertas (FSP2KI), ICEM’s pulp, paper, and packaging affiliate, was suspended today in hopes that talks at the regional Parliament can bring a 2011 wage accord. Those talks should have happened late last week when union leaders and government officials entered the struck PT Tanjung Enim Lestari pulp mill to negotiate, but mill managers disappeared and made themselves unavailable.

Today’s talks will be mediated by the provincial Manpower Ministry and came about through global pressure on Marubeni Corp. and the fact that FSB2KI’s branch union at the mill, SPPTTEL, had conducted such a thorough strike last week. If talks fail, SPPTTEL has promised another three days of strike action next week, 10-12 August.

All 1,000 workers at the pulp mill, located near Muaraenim in southern Sumatra Island, began strike action on 27 July in response to repressive and rude bargaining table behaviour by managers of PT Tanjung Enim Lestari, a subsidiary of the Japanese holding company Marubeni. When local government officials attempted to mediate the dispute with local managers on 29 July, they found they had left the mill and could not be contacted.

SPPTTEL Strike, 27 July

Last week the ICEM put out a solidarity appeal for support to the FSP2KI branch union, SPPTTEL, as well as information on registering protests with local managers. The ICEM continues to seek support and further pressure on local managers. Readers are encouraged to visit this ICEM Pulp and Paper link to participate. 

During wage talks in late June and again in mid-July – with government officials participating – PT Tanjung Enim Lestari managers offered only token salary increases for 2011, citing profit losses. In the July talks, the union pointed to increased production, rising market pulp prices, consistent profits from 2007 to 2010, and asked to see the employer’s most recent balance sheet.

With that, managers became indignant and threatened worker layoffs and terminating bargaining committee members if the team persisted with their demands. They also promised any strike would be met by police force. Although a police presence was nearby last week, the strike was peaceful and void of conflict. Strikers wore red and white ribbons, while a number of South Sumatra supporters and KSP2KI members from other pulp and paper mills have joined the strike wearing black ribbons.

SPPTTEL is insisting on a total halt to the bargaining table threats and intimidation, and an across-the-board monthly increase of IDR 632,000, or US$74. PT Tanjung Enim Lestari has offered IDR 210,000, or US$24. The average median salary in the pulp mill is IDR 2 million, or US$235-per-month.

The ICEM will monitor today’s dialogue at the provincial seat in Muaraenim and, if necessary, continue to press Maurabeni for accountability. The mill has capacity to produce 450,000 metric tonnes of market pulp annually and is Indonesia’s third largest pulp mill.