Indonesia: fight for an independent union. Workers beaten by riot police

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 23 September, 2004 - 12:00

On 8 September 200 police attacked the striking workers of PT Shamrock in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Several workers were injured, also some police. This was the most brutal attempt so far to suppress the building of an alternative union in this factory. The workers at Shamrock produce rubber gloves, for medical use, for a US transnational.

By Mick Duncan

At first the firm dismissed 14 workers involved in building the new independent union.

Now, more than 800 have been laid off because of the solidarity strike. The firm has been working closely with the old state-run union, SPSI, and want to prevent the creation of a new union.

The young workers — 70 per cent of them women — are determined to continue their struggle to re-employ the laid-off workers and recognise their freedom to organise.

In 2003, a few workers began building the new organisation. They decided to join the small but active local union SBMI — Serikat Buruh Medan Independent. Their former union, recognised by the firm, hadn’t done much for them. The firm was late paying the wages, initially refused to pay the increase in the minimum wage, and has a bad safety record.

Amongst the workers’ demands are two days menstruation leave without having to produce a doctor’s certificate, and the ending of temporary work and outsourcing. In a short period of time, at least 700 production workers — the majority — signed the membership rolls of the new union. A three-day strike in March 2004 resulted in first successes.

The firm immediately confronted the activists, firing 14 of them.

On 9 August 2004, around 800 SBMI members went on strike against the dismissals. Since then, the strikers have been active every day. They demonstrate in front of government offices, like that of the Ministry of Labour, in front of the Parliament building when their representatives are present to demand the support of the competent commission, or at the governor of the province of Sumatra’s office. Most of the time, though, they try to occupy both gates of the factory to convince their colleagues of the necessity to strike. Some 300 production workers who are still SPSI members are continuing work.

The firm’s reactions have been harsh. On 17 August 200 thugs attacked the strikers in front of the factory. In Indonesia, groups of thugs are often hired to intimidate workers. On this occasion, as per usual, the police stood by and watched.

Then on 8 September the police attacked the strikers in front of the factory, beat some of them up, arrested more than 150 of them only to release them many hours later.

The parent company is Globe Shamrock, based in Houston, Texas.

You can help by sending a protest email to the Texas company demanding that they respect workers’ rights.
l Send protest emails to

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.