Indonesia: Strike paralyses Chinese project, workers emerge victorious

Last 26 July, 350 construction workers building a coal-fired power plant in South Sumatra, Indonesia went on strike over failure of their company to provide job protection guarantees. 


The PT Shenhua Guo Hua Lion Power Indonesia (SGLPI), a Chinese investment company tasked to build the PLTU Sumsel 1 Project, was also asked by the striking workers to comply with Indonesian labor laws covering social security (BPJS), occupational health and safety (OHS), working hours, health facilities, and the right to association.

According to SERBUK PLTU Sumsel 1 Chairperson Arisal, the workers were compelled to mount the strike as a response to the company’s refusal to comply with the workers’ demands even after South Sumatra’s Labor Inspector asked it to. 

“For one month, we have invited the company to negotiate with us even as we prepared for the possibility of going on strike. Sadly, the company continued to ignore our union's request to negotiate. We have waited too long. Our patience ran out. Going on strike is our last resort,” Arisal said.

According to the union, the strike succeeded in paralysing work in all construction projects under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) scheme in South Sumatra. This forced the company to negotiate with the trade union. 

The negotiations, which were facilitated by the Local Government and the Manpower Office of Muara Enim Regency, took four days and had several stages. SERBUK Executive Committee Member Maulana Husain, who participated in the strike action, said that the negotiations were under considerable pressure. He reported the involvement of the army and police in the negotiation process.

At the strike site, workers organised various activities to express their strong support for their negotiating team. Representatives of different trade unions in Muara Enim went to the strike area and delivered solidarity speeches, while other workers expressed their support online. 

Strong support was also enjoyed by the striking workers from global trade unions, especially BWI and its affiliates that are part of its Global Organising Academy (GOA) in the Asia Pacific region. The strike also received wide coverage from different media networks.

Strike coordinator Tajudin said that the overwhelming support and solidarity have strengthened their determination to keep on fighting. "There was a lot of pressure, threats and retaliatory moves from the company against the striking workers. Fortunately, all of these were handled collectively and successfully,” he said. 

On 29 July, after four days of strike action, the company finally agreed to fulfill the demands of the workers through a signed collective agreement. 

Husain said that in the next few days, the union will register the agreement at the Industrial Relations Court in Palembang to ensure its full implementation. "In accordance with the provisions of Law 2 of 2004 concerning Settlement of Industrial Relations Disputes, collective agreements must be registered to ensure their implementation," he explained.

With both parties signing a collective agreement, SERBUK PLTU Sumsel 1 officially declared that the strike is over and asked workers to go back to work on 30 July.