Legal Victory for Shangri-La Jakarta Workers as Appeals Court Overturns Mass Firings, Calls for Reinstatement

        International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
        Legal Victory for Shangri-La Jakarta Workers as Appeals Court Overturns Mass Firings, Calls for Reinstatement

        Posted to the IUF website on 28-Mar-2002

        Union members at the Shangri-La Jakarta Hotel won a key legal victory in their long fight for justice when the State Administrative High Court ruled in their favour on March 26. The court’s ruling overturned the May 2001 decision of the Central Committee for Industrial Dispute Resolution (the sham industrial tribunal known as "P4P") authorizing the hotel management to sack 579 union members.

        The mass sackings of union members – which has been forcefully condemned by the ILO – followed the closure of the hotel in December 2000 in response to a peaceful worker protest over the dismissal of their then union president. The workers were violently evicted by armed police, after which management elected to bust the union and implement a three month lockout. The hotel reopened with a new workforce on March 17 last year, but business has been poor as the locked-out union members have kept up their struggle with support from unions internationally.

        The independent Shangri-La Workers’ Union SPMS has organized regular demonstrations outside the hotel (where a contingent of police has been lodged at management expense) and regularly informed the Indonesian public of developments in the conflict through public meetings and joint activities with their federation FSPM, an IUF affiliate. IUF member unions around the world have demonstrated outside Indonesian embassies and consulates and Shangri-La corporate and sales offices, and kept up a steady stream of protest messages to hotel management and the Indonesian authorities. As a result of this tenacious resistance, the Shangri-La conflict has become the longest-running and best-publicized industrial conflict in Indonesia, and a crucial test for the country’s ability to move towards democracy after the fall of Suharto’s "New Order".

        Many of the workers, facing severe hardship in Indonesia’s devastated economy, elected to accept the compensation "awarded" them by the P4P in compensation for the mass sackings. Eighty-one union members, however, refused to sign away their right to reinstatement, and it is that group of committed SPMS members that is immediately affected by the decision that they were wrongfully dismissed.

        The conflict, however, does not come to an end with the court ruling, significant as it is. The P4P can appeal the decision, which would throw the case into Indonesia’s Supreme Court and delay a settlement for a considerable time.

        For the Shangri-La union, and for the IUF, there are two key issues which must be settled before the international campaign can be called off. All 81 workers must be reinstated in their jobs, with back pay and no victimization. Immediately after the court decision, SPMS Secretary Odie Hudiyanto told the press that "We will follow up on what the management always promised – that they would obey the law of Indonesia".

        The hotel owners must also drop their grotesque claim to USD 2.2 million in "damages" from 7 trade union members and leaders associated with the struggle. The owners were awarded this sum in a civil suit decided in a Jakarta court last November. That decision, which would require the seizure of the defendants’ property and income, remains on appeal.

        Until the workers are back at their jobs, and Shangri-La’s owners abandon their efforts to crush independent trade unionism by seeking monetary compensation for their decision to close the 5-star hotel for three months and lock out all union members, the international campaign for justice for the Shangri-La workers will continue.

        What you can do

        Write to the Manpower (Labour) Minister of Indonesia, requesting his ministry to respect the decision of the court. Ask him to facilitate the speedy reinstatement of all 81 Shangri-La workers who have refused compensation for dismissals and struggled for over 15 months for reinstatement. A massive written response to the minister could help convince the P4P and the employers to not pursue the appeals procedure and not attempt to block the workers’ reinstatement.

        The following may serve as a sample for your own message. Please send copies of any message you might send to the IUF secretariat. We thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.

        Sample Message to Mr. Jacob Nuwa Wea, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration

        Fax: + 62 21 525 5628 or e-mail

        Dear Mr. Minister,

        I have been informed of the March 26 decision of the State Administrative High Court to overturn the May 2001 decision of the Central Committee for Industrial Dispute Resolution regarding the dismissal of hundreds of union members at the Shangri-La Jakarta Hotel. I welcome this decision.

        Eighty-one members of the independent Shangri-La Hotel Workers’ Union SPMS refused compensation for their wrongful termination, and have been struggling since December 2000 to return to their jobs with dignity. I hope that this court decision will open the way for just such a solution to this conflict. Accordingly, I urge you to use your good offices to see that the court decision is quickly implemented and that these 81 workers are reinstated in their positions as soon as possible.
        I look forward to swift action on the part of your ministry.

        Yours sincerely,