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Indonesia: BMI union leader convicted in trial farce, union to press criminal charges for systematic wage and benefit violations

10 September 2019 News
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The trial of Reni Desmiria, secretary of the SPBMI union of workers at seafood processor Bumi Menara Internusa (BMI) in Lampung, Indonesia, has concluded with her conviction and a reduced sentence. BMI had sought to have her imprisoned for 6 years on the grounds that she had applied for a position over 8 years ago as a casual worker with a false high school certificate. The company instigated the proceedings after Reni signed up union members for a mandatory employee health insurance scheme.

The notoriously corrupt legal system declared her guilty as expected, but faced with campaigns at local, national and international level was forced to reduce the sentence to 4 months with time served. She will be released and reunited with her family this week.

BMI, which supplies major sea food processors like Aqua Star and Chicken of the Sea, now faces criminal charges brought by the IUF-affiliated independent food processing union federation SPBMM and the legal aid foundation LBH. Sworn testimony by BMI management at the trial indicated systematic wage theft, underpayment of the applicable minimum wage, systematic abuse of casual employment and failure to provide mandatory benefits. Testimony and evidence provided by union members has strengthened the criminal suit. BMI's corporate customers now have to explain how they failed to detect years of criminal employment practices on the part of a first-tier supplier.

The union has warmly thanked the thousands of worker rights defenders around the world who supported their struggle, which continues.