INDONESIA: International Union Steps into Sony Dispute

JAKARTA -- An international union has stepped into the dispute surrounding the dismissal of 928 workers from PT Sony Electronics Indonesia.

Representatives, including those from Singapore and Japan, of the Geneva- based International Metalworkers Federation (IMF), its Indonesian affiliate SPMI and Sony workers met with the company's management on Tuesday.

Sony's assistant manager Hanny Toreh declined to comment on the latest development to the conflict, which began in February.

A lawyer for the workers, Elza Syarief, said there was a possibility of going to the state administrative court to seek justice for the workers.

Elza said federation representatives had sent a letter to President Abdurrahman Wahid and Minister of Manpower Bomer Pasaribu.

The letter, written by the federation's general secretary Marcello Malentacchi, said the decision to dismiss the 928 striking workers "appears to be based on laws adopted while president Soeharto was in power" and "in no way diminishes Indonesia's responsibility to uphold the international conventions it is a party to."

The federation said Indonesia had violated the convention guaranteeing the right to strike and providing protection against dismissal during disputes.

On June 29 the government's Central Committee for Labor Disputes decided to approve Sony's actions -- a decision which the workers' lawyers have said is not valid. However, the committee's decision can only be vetoed by the manpower minister.

The lawyers claimed that business interests in Indonesia and in Japan, where Sony's headquarters are, had influenced the committee's decision.

Most of the workers, the majority of whom are women, are now demanding their jobs back and to be paid backdated salaries, which they say they have not received since May.

The dispute began when Sony changed the working conditions for its 1,100 workers, who assemble audiovisual electronics parts, ordering them to stand up rather than sit down at the production line.

Sony management has said the method is not detrimental to workers' health. Suhana, a protesting worker, said some women would faint after a few hours at work.

However she said they were now willing to work standing up as long as they received more pay; more than 30 minutes of break a shift; and permission to drink and to go to the toilet during their eight-hour day.

IMF, which claims a membership of 23 million worldwide, threatened in a letter to the Sony corporation chairman in Japan a public campaign "to taint the image" of Sony for its "serious human and labor rights violations" in Indonesia.

AMP Section Name:Technology & Telecommunications
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