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Strikes Looms at Merpati Nusantara Airline

Merpati Nusantara Pilots Threaten to Strike Over Firing of Airline's CEO. Pilots Claim Firing Illegal & Linked to Purchase of Sukhoi Passenger Jets

(5/13/2012) Antara Bali reports that President Director of PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Sardjono Jhonny Tjitrokusumo, has been suddenly dismissed from his post and replaced by Rudy Setyopurnomo, whose last posting was as the Main Commissioner of the airline.

“Yes, there has been a replacement. I was fired, I didn’t resign,” explained Jhonny on Sunday, May 13, 2012.

News of the abrupt dismissal immediately brought a reaction from 68 of Merpati’s pilots who have threatened to strike on Monday, May 14, 2012, in response to what they claim is an unfair and illegal termination.

As reported by Bisnis.com, the chairman of the union for the State-owned airline, Captain Eman Supriatman, confirmed the planned strike action represented a protest over the firing.

The firing of Jhonny and the naming of his replacement were undertaken by the Minister of State-owned Enterprises, Dahlan Iskan.

The newly appointed head of Merpati, Rudy Setyopurnomo, was a founder of Indonesian Airlines that ceased operations in 2003.

The outgoing CEO of the airline has issued a statement calling on the pilots to avoid any strike action due to the potential damage such industrial action might cause the airline and the general public.

The head of the union told Bisnis Indonesia on Sunday, May 13, 2012, that the planned protest by pilots is based on three suspicions. First, the suspicion that the firing is illegal and not in accordance with Presidential Instructions of 2003 and 2005 requiring a meeting of shareholders to evaluate the current CEO’s performance and to appoint any replacement. Second, the suspicion that Rudy Setyopurnomo, as the former leader of the bankrupt PT Indonesia Airlines, is technically ineligable and "unfit" to head Merpati in accordance with the 2008 law on limited liability companies. Thirdly, a suspicion that the termination of the CEO is somehow connected with Merpati being "compelled" to purchase 40 Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft at a value of US$100 million on February 14, 2012.

The Sukhoi Superjet Crash

A Sukhoi jet, on a demonstration and promotional flight from Jakarta over West Java, crashed in Indonesia on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 killing all 45 passengers and crew on board as it slammed into a volcanic mountain.

On board the ill-fated aircraft were members of the press, government officials and representatives of various Indonesian airlines. Also among the dead were fourteen employees of Sky Aviation, an Indonesian aviation company with 12 of the new Russian-built jets on order.

Efforts by Bisnis Indonesia to contact the Ministry for State-owned Enterprises for comment on the sudden changes in command at Merpati and the threatened pilot strike have reportedly been unsuccessful.