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Fight back - Defending and expanding rights

Presentation by Hemasari Dharmabumi at this morning's panel.


Sisters and Brothers,
Let us remember the day that it happened.

(Shortage from Shangri-La film)

1. The Shangri-La Jakarta dispute is known as one of the biggest industrial dispute in Indonesia. It took two years. 579 of our members lost their jobs. But that time, when so much of the blood and tears of our beloved members was shed, is over. Such a long journey to defend union rights; to improve working conditions such as wage increases, pension plan, maternity protection and service charge transparency in the hotel industry.

2. We never expected that it would be so difficult. But we also never regret that it happened. Because we have learnt that the light is so bright after a long darkness and success only comes to the ones who dare to struggle. FSPM, the Federation of which the Shangri-La Workers’ Union was part, today is know as one of the most independent and fastest-growing union in Indonesia.

3. We also have another story, in which 3 people died, more than 1 thousand workers were dismissed, almost 700 families were evicted from their homes and more than 200 children were thrown out of their schools. It happened in Musim Mas, one of the biggest palm oil plantation and factories on the island of Sumatera. The company didn’t want to recognize the local union and then banned it. The company didn’t accept the fact that the new union demanded improved working conditions and the reinstatement of dismissed union leaders.

4. The IUF did everything we could to support the musim mas local union which is affiliated to BWI. It was out of our hands that the union finally surrendered because of internal pressure. But the Musim Mas case clearly reflects the general situation of workers in the palm oil industry. This commodity is currently being promoted by the government and business above all others in the agriculture sector. Indonesia itself has hundred of thousands, even millions of workers, in this sector, working in horrible conditions. The conditions are even worse for Indonesia migrant workers in palm oil plantations in Malaysia.

5. Poverty, unemployment and low wages have forced thousands of people to migrate to Malaysia. The vast majority of them are undocumented workers. There are at least one million Indonesians working in Malaysia with forced overtime, unpaid wages, automatic wage deductions of up to 50% to service high interest loans to agents and sexual harassment and violence.

6. The Malaysian Government furthermore has planned to allow Malaysian employers to prevent migrant workers from leaving their place of employment, to address so-called “increasing of criminality”. I therefore call on you, delegates, to give your support to draft resolution number 19 on migrant workers and number 33 on bio-fuels.

7. Agriculture and plantation is the largest sector in Indonesia, employing more than 40 million of people. Another recent struggle is run by FSPM TG, the Federation of Cane, Sugar and Tobacco Independent Workers’ Unions, affiliated to IUF. They are also fighting for union rights, defending jobs, and better working conditions.

8. We have to do this with increased participation of union members, activists and leaders to force change in our organisations. This must be done on a massive scale, to intensify and make our organisations more effictive. We must do more research and education to ensure that our members truly understand about economic changes relating to trade and financialisation. We must improve their awareness about developments in the global sphere by mobilising our members in solidarity actions. We must also create specific and targeted organising strategies and bring more dedicated organisers to our unions.

9. Our greatest victories are ahead of us. They will require more hard work, more courage and more solidarity to achieve. The need to have more democratic and independent unions remains critical, especially in many countries in Asia. So I also call on you to give your support to draft Resolution number 16 on the developments of democatization in Asia which submitted by our sister unions from Japan.

Sisters and Brother, Delegates to the 25th Congress of the IUF,

I am a woman with 2 children and I’m proud of being so. As women organisers together with all women union leaders and members, we promise to do our best for our shared future. The vote yesterday to amend the IUF rules to give women a greater role in our structures is a historic decision. Do not underestimate the contribution that women will bring to strengthen our movement. Together with you, we wil FIGHT BACK for Justice.