A Strike Report from the Shop Floor
Around 500 women workers struck at the Tanashin Indonesia factory in February 1995. The strikers demanded food money in lieu of lunch during Ramadan,(6) which the bosses had replaced with packaged snacks. All the workers disagreed with what the bosses offered, since it was not in accordance with the labour contract. The money at stake was Rps 1400 (75c).
On the following day, the workers in sections Audio 1 through Audio 8 made their feelings clear by staging a slowdown. Then, on the afternoon of the first fasting day, the foremen handed out forms to be filled in for receiving the snacks. None of the workers would take them except in the cleaning department, where three people were intimidated by threats of the sack. However, five workers were forced to sign the forms, including me. As soon as I saw other workers weren't signing the form, I quickly crossed out my signature in front of the foreman. Then all the workers went home.
The afternoon shift took the food on the first day of fasting because when they came in they were hassled by the personnel manager who told them: 'Don't be like the day shift, they're communists.' However, there was one foreman who defended the workers, saying: 'This is their right, it's natural they should make these demands.' The personnel manager replied, 'You're defending them?' He answered 'Yes, sir,' pounding the table right in front of the workers.
On Thursday, 2 February, the workers in the Audio section took strike action, remaining at their work stations without doing their usual work. In the unsettled situation, the managers were thrown into confusion because the products weren't being produced. The Japanese bosses asked 'What's going on?' in their broken Indonesian, and ordered us to 'work first' before demanding money. The workers replied, 'money first, then we work.'
When workers in the other sections heard about the strike they joined in and refused to work. Then the Japanese ordered the machines turned off and held a meeting with the management. The workers, not wanting to be left behind, also held meetings and established contacts between workers in different sections. We all agreed not to go the work areas after the 10am rest break, but just sit outside in the courtyard.
A few minutes later a foreman ordered us to return to the work areas while waiting for a decision, but the women refused. The management went back inside and met with management and the Japanese for two hours, until there was an announcement, right at noon.
We were told to meet in the canteen. …