ExxonMobil in Aceh dismisses 1000 employees

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Media Indonesia – June 30, 2003
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Contract workers protest against ExxonMobil in Aceh (Liputan 6)
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Contract workers protest against ExxonMobil in Aceh (Liputan 6)
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Lhok Sukon, Banda Aceh -- The management of PT ExxonMobil Indonesia began dismissing around 1000 workers on Monday, this is the third time the company has dismissed contract workers this year.

In protest against the dismissals, employees held a demonstration in the area around ExxonMobil in Lhok Sukon on Monday, this demonstration being the fifth [to date].

A number of the contract workers, the majority of which have worked at ExxonMobil for 15-30 years, said that almost 95 per cent of the employees who were dismissed were local Acehnese. They will receive severance pay equivalent to two months wages or around 1-3 million rupiah.

According to Syamsul Bahri, one of the leaders of the demonstration, they had in fact already asked the management to delay the dismissals until the emergency situation [which was declared in Aceh on May 19] ended, because it is extremely difficult to find work during the emergency period.

The management however did not respond, so they are of the opinion that the ExxonMobil management is taking advantage of the emergency military situation in Aceh to carry out the dismissals in because [they know] that their employees will not be able to struggle fully for their rights.

Nevertheless, the employees said that they will not take any anarchistic actions, and will continue to struggle for their rights though peaceful demonstrations and dialogue.

According to Bahri, they have already written to Commission VII of the People’s Consultative Assembly Commission and have twice held discussions with the minister of labour and transport, Jacob Nuwa Wea, to ask for the rights of the employees to be protected. In addition to this, they also plan to ask for support from the Regent of North Aceh and the North Aceh local parliament, however they are still waiting for permission from the military commander overseeing the military emergency in Aceh.

He said that the employees also regretted the fact that since last Thursday, they have been refused permission to enter land belonging to ExxonMobil, while in fact their ID badges are still valid until June 30. “However since last Thursday, we have been refused permission to enter”, said Bahri.

He hoped therefore, that the government would find a solution to the problem of the ExxonMobil dismissals by supporting the formation of an independent team to investigate the matter objectively and fairly.

According to Bahri, finding work during a military emergency is extremely difficult, especially if you are seeking work outside of Aceh. “ExxonMobil does not have any intention of finding a solution which is beneficial to both parties”, he said.

“We are also confused because our children will be going back to school soon [after the school holidays are over]. Over the next three months, perhaps will still be able to eat, but what about the future of our children’s schooling”, he said.

According to another employee, Agus Resta Alam, the majority of the workers who were dismissed lived in and around the area of ExxonMobil. “We feel like mice who have died [of starvation] amidst the wealth of a rice storage barn. Where are we going to find work”, he asked.

“We are shocked that the management of ExxonMobil have failed to respect Law Number 13/2003 on labour affairs, because the law has contains stipulations on the issue of severance pay and the rights of employees who are dismissed”, he added.

In the same grain, Jafar also said that he was confused about how he was pay for his six children [to go to school], because he was only given around 1 million rupiah in severance pay.

Meanwhile it has been difficult to obtain conformation from the management of ExxonMobil because the companies security personnel and the security forces are tightly guarding the gates and journalists are refused permission to enter. (Ant/Ol-01)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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