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Strike Ahead for Garuda Indonesia?

Garuda Employees Threaten Strike Action as Negotiations with The Indonesian National Carrier Hit an Impasse.

(8/2/2010) The Jakarta Globe reports that the unions of the national carrier Garuda Indonesia are at "loggerheads" with their employer - a seeming impasse in labor negotiations that brings with it the threat of a strike against the carrier.

In desperation, the Union has sent a petition to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seeking his intervention to avoid the undesired consequences that would result from a strike action.

A spokesman for the Garuda workers' union, Tomy Tampatty, claimed the airline has reneged on promises made in February 2010 to grant a 50% pay rise to all its workers and to lower the retirement age for the airline's pilots from 60 to 56.

In response, the corporate secretary for the airline, Pudjobroto, has denied that any agreement has been reached, saying the matters were still under negotiation. He told the press: "The so-called joint 'agreement' is still being discussed with the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, so it hasn't become a formal agreement yet. Those terms are merely demands from the workers' union at this point. The ministry will help sort out the demands of the employees and decide which demands will be agreed upon."

Pudjobroto defended the management of the national airline, insisting that over the past three years salaries have been linked to performance, helping to turn the airline around from a money-loser to a money-maker."

Although national law mandates retirement at age 56, the Garuda pilots, according to Pudjobroto, had agreed to continue working until age 60.

In apparent contradiction to Pujobroto's statement, Stephanus Gerardus, the president of the Garuda Pilots' Association (APG) claimed that his members had asked for a retirement age of 56 which had been agreed by the Airline.

With each side calling the other liars and Garuda even challenging whether or not the Union is entitled to speak on behalf of their employees, a showdown looms ahead.

The leadership of APG and Sekarga, who represent most of the airline's employees, are warning of possible industrial action. Salim Abubakar, who serves as president of Sekarga, said, "a strike will be conducted as soon as possible, most likely within this year, if Garuda's management does not commit to our joint agreement with them."

Tomy Tompatty echoed Salim's threat, but emphasized that any strike would be a last ditch option, used if all other efforts to reach an accord failed.

For now, the ball is in the President's court while the union awaits a reply to their petition.