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Victory for illegally sacked airport workers in Indonesia

news 09 Feb 2024

The trade union Gebuk has secured a major victory for its members after the airline catering company Aerofood Catering Services Indonesia committed to pay compensation to the workers illegally terminated during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Gebuk, a member of the ITF-affiliated Federation of Indonesian Airport Workers’ Unions (FSPBI), is a union of outsourced airline catering workers at Jakarta airport.  

Gebuk successfully secured the agreement after a mass demonstration on 6 February, attended by the sacked workers and several supporters from other FSPBI affiliates including the Citilink Cabin Crew Association, the Gapura Angkasa Workers’ Union, the Air Asia Welfare Workers’ Union and the Indonesian Airport Workers’ Union. 

During the Covid outbreak, all of Gebuk’s membership were sacked overnight, paid no compensation and received no guarantees around a return to work once the industry restarted. In contrast, in-house catering workers employed by Garuda (Aerofood’s parent company) retained their jobs - highlighting the precarity of aviation’s fragmented supply chain. 

Aerofood was found guilty of illegally terminating its workforce by the Supreme Court of Indonesia in October 2023. In response, Gebuk called for those who were laid off to be re-employed as permanent employees. 

Unfortunately, once it was clear Aerofood did not intend to implement the Supreme Court's decision, a decision to escalate their campaign was taken. 

Jackie Tuwanakotta, the general secretary of FSPBI and ITF’s Asia-Pacific Chair for Aviation said, “This outcome was a massive victory for the workers who had not stopped fighting for justice since they were laid off four years ago. Let this be a lesson in building our strength together and supporting our comrades in times of need. This would not have been possible without support from other trade unions under FSPBI who showed up for their colleagues who were denied what was rightfully due to them.” 

“These workers have been fighting for their lives and livelihood for the past three and a half years. Companies that have the right to lay off workers must also carry out their obligations to rightfully compensate those workers," added Jackie.  

ITF’s Civil Aviation Secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez welcomed the win and commended both the FSPBI and Gebuk on their efforts to secure a successful outcome: “This is a well-deserved win in the fight for justice for workers who were paid no compensation and received no guarantees around a return to work once the aviation industry restarted. Such instances clearly highlight the impact aviation’s fragmented supply chain has on the lives of the workers who power the industry.” 

Gabriel said the successful outcome was a result of organising and evidenced the power of being in a union. 

Nearly four hours of action at the demonstration led to the employer agreeing to honour the Supreme Court decision by making payments to Gebuk’s members and issuing a letter to that effect. The demonstrations disbanded once the agreement was in place.  

The FSPBI will continue to monitor the payment process, due to begin 1 March, to ensure all payments are made on time.