Without a clear basis, the palm oil company PT. Citra Agro Kencana unilaterally fired 37 workers. Following this decision is the forced expulsion of workers and their families from their homes in the plantation area in the middle of the night. Until now, there has been no certainty regarding the livelihood of workers and their families in temporary residences.
The company is allegedly doing union busting by the dismissing and expelling workers who are members of the trade union of National Workers Union (SPN). The company argued that 37 workers had transmitted coronavirus in the work area.
This allegation was raised by the company because the workers participated in the a protest action to reject the Omnibus Law draft bill on August 25 in Samarinda. This draft bill has been long rejected by wide range of Indonesian people’s movementfor facilitating further environmental destruction and exploitation towards workers to attract foreign investments.
Two days after workers returned to their homes, the company mobilized a group of people suspected of being hired thugs to force the workers and their families to leave.
At the time of the expulsion, the company failed to provide medical evidence that showed that the workers had been exposed to Covid-19. The company also did not provide an official letter of dismissal. Moreover, when the union facilitated its members to take the rapid test independently on September 1, 2020, the results showed that the workers were not infected with Covid-19.
The company is suspected of using Covid-19 as an excuse to hamper freedom of association. The accusation by the company is also unfair considering that the company itself has not taken effective measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the work area. Production activities continue as normal, while access in and out of the plantation area is not restricted. During this pandemic, companies are still recruiting new workers.
There is no certainty regarding the livelihood of workers and their families, whether the company will pay compensation for dismissal, or rehiring workers—who have been proven to be free from Covid-19. Currently, workers who have been expelled live in rented houses in the Samarinda city, with their own expenses for rent and daily necessities.
The East Kalimantan SPN Union has sought negotiations with the Company’s Directors on September 3rd. At the meeting, the company said that workers can be rehired on condition that they show the results of the PCR examination. However, these conditions are considered burdensome for workers because the costs of examination are not borne by the company.
The union has reported this case to the Manpower Office of East Kalimantan Province. This effort was taken to urge the Disnaker to summon the company to a mediation meeting. The SPN Union is also trying to meet with members of East Kalimantan Regional People’s Representative Council Province to complain about this case.
The actions by the company constitute as a crime against human rights. PT. Citra Agro Kencana are not allowed to use Covid-19 as an excuse to hamper freedom of association, especially when the company itself does not really take effective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the work area.
As supporters of this statement letter, we;
1) Condemn the arbitrary actions of PT. Citra Agro Kencana, who fired and forcibly expelled 37 workers and their families without clear reasons and evidence
2) Urging the company to carry out its obligations in fulfilling the rights of workers whose status is still officially employed by the company.
3) Urging companies to open for a negotiation with trade unions without providing burdensome conditions for workers.
4) Urging the company to cover all of the workers’ living costs during the case resolution process, including housing costs and basic necessities while workers staying outside the plantation area
5) Urging the East Kalimantan Provincial Manpower Office to immediately conduct an examination of suspected violations committed by the company and ensure that workers’ rights are fulfilled.
Solidarity for PT. Citra Agro Kencana plantation workers.
1) Jaringan Solidaritas Transnasional Buruh Kebun Sawit
2) Koalisi Buruh Sawit, Indonesia
3) SEPASI, Indonesia
4) Jawatankuasa Sokongan Masyarakat Ladang (JSML), Malaysia
5) Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC), Hong Kong
6) Worker’s Initiative, Kolkata
7) Serve the People Association (SPA), Taiwan
8) Apo Leung, Hong Kong
9) Fahmi Panimbang, Indonesia
10) Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA Pilipinas), the Philippines
11) Serikat Buruh Sawit Sejahtera (SBSS), Indonesia