Labor Party Reacts to Deadly Workers Clash at Chinese Smelter in C. Sulawesi
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Labor Party chairperson Said Iqbal on Monday revealed the myriad of causes that eventually fueled the deadly clash that took place at a smelter in North Morowali, Central Sulawesi, operated by PT. Gunbuster Nickel Industri or PT GNI.
He elaborated that the initial factor was the labor workers’ protest demanding management to increase workplace health and safety protocols following the death of two crane workers last year.
"A work accident caused by a crane that turned off, it was maybe because of an electrical issue, this is real negligence, the company's negligence factor regarding occupational safety and health," he said at the Ciputra Hotel in Jakarta, on January 16.
In the incident that occurred in mid-December 2022, a female worker from Bugis named Nirwana Selle and a male worker from Bali, I Made Defri Hari Jonathan, tragically died in the fierce fire. According to Iqbal, after this incident, the company did not improve the work safety aspects that the law requires.
"It was the deaths of these two people that triggered the labor unrest. This is a large company, there are 10,000 workers. The unrest was before the worker's death due to OHS negligence," said Iqbal.
Another aspect he believes contributed to the deadly clash at PT GNI was the worker's wage aspect. He said a large number of workers complained about the arguably little pay they get each month at around Rp3.6 million (roughly US$239), which is deemed not proportional to the size of one of China’s giant companies that generate trillions each month.
"The workers were restless after working in the company for years, but when they were invited to negotiate, the management said they could only increase their wages by Rp75,000 per month. This means less than USD13 per month. That is what peaked workers’ anxiety," said Iqbal.
The final straw that sparked anger among workers was when migrant workers from China – he claims according to reports – would often give orders to local workers in a severely unethical way. He even claims there was one incident where foreign employees physically attacked local workers who were eating. At the time, he said, workers were able to contain their anger.
After failing to establish a deal regarding workers’ wages on January 14, many of them staged a demonstration which was then attacked by Chinese workers.
“As they were protesting, they were attacked by workers from China. Information we received suggests they were attacked and disbanded. In the evening, the demonstrators reached boiling point after their co-workers died, but now being attacked as they were demonstrating?,” the Labor Party chairperson asserted.
The clash at PT GNI was reported to have occurred on Saturday night, January 14, 2023 at around 21:20 WITA (Central Indonesian Time). The riot started at the Pull Dump Truck which resulted in the persecution of Indonesian workers by foreign workers at the site.
The clash then spread to Smelter 2 facility. The crowd involved in the riot threw stones at each other. The riots continued late into the night at 22:00 WITA, they set fire to heavy equipment and cars. The mob is also suspected of looting workers' dormitories.
Joint law enforcement officers led by the North Morowali Police Resort managed to disband the riot in the early dawn of Sunday, January 15. The situation calmed down after the police intervened.
According to the Central Sulawesi Police, the cause of the riot at PT GNI was the workers sweeping by union workers against workers who refused to go on strike.
The police claim that the clash between foreign and domestic workers at North Morowali PT GNI occurred after union workers on numerous occasions “swept” the area to entice others to participate in the strike.
The clash caused three people to lose their lives, two who are Indonesians, and one was a foreign worker. Three others were injured in the clash. Police apprehended 69 workers following the clash who were accused of provoking the clash and being involved in the destruction of company facilities.
M JULNIS FIRMANSYAH
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