Organizing Contract Workers in Tangerang

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) has posted a short interview with a contract worker from PT Cussons in Tangerang and the chairperson of SP FARKES, the union which represents permanent workers at the company and is currently trying to organize contract works.  Along with describing the two-tiered system of working conditions, pay, and benefits that separates permanent and contract workers, the SP FARKES chairperson discussed the union’s current campaign to organize contract workers:

When did SP FARKES start to organise contract workers?

Sasmita: We started to organise contract workers in January 2011 because they didn’t receive the same benefits and allowances as permanent staff. They always work under the pressure of management.

How did you go about organising the workers?

Sasmita: First we organised a seminar outside the factories to talk about rights. It was on a Sunday, and ran from morning until evening. We invited 214 contract workers and 176 attended. During the seminar, we gave the workers union membership application forms and they all signed the forms to become members.

The union dues are the same for contract workers. According to our constitution union dues are 1% of members’ salaries.

How did management react when the contract workers joined the union?

Sasmita: The company didn’t recognise that the contract workers had joined the union. They refused to include them in the check-off system. The union collects contract workers’ dues manually.

Management knows that the union also represents contract workers but at the top level they won’t recognise us as a representative of the contract workers.

There is a collective agreement but it only covers permanent workers. This year, the agreement will end – we will be negotiating again. We hope that we can include an article on converting contract workers to permanent workers.

Now there is a rumour that the company will not renew all the contracts. Some workers are afraid and asked to meet with me. I will meet them and explain to them that it is better if we fight, if we fight we can win.

Were your members happy that the union organised the contract workers?

Sasmita: The permanent workers were happy – they think someday we all could be CAL workers. One agenda of the union is trying to make the contract workers into permanent workers. The union is giving them information on the rights of contract workers. We are constantly meeting with them and we are trying to make a network between contract and permanent staff. Each department has two union reps: one for permanent workers and one for contract workers.

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