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26 May 2023

Permata Adinda, Project Multatuli,

Indonesia: Polices reportedly criminalise union members after PT GNI protest turns deadly

[unofficial translation provided by BHRRC]

Deaths, Work Accidents, Union Busting, Criminalisation: The Fate of Indonesian and Chinese Workers in PT GNI's Nickel Smelter Industry, 26/05/2023

...On 14 January 2023, Jumardin (Umar) left for his night shift at PT Gunbuster Nickel Industry. Since then, he never returned home. Umar usually returned home at 9:00am the next morning… However, until 11am the next day, Umar never called...

Umar's days in police custody were uncertain... National Police Chief… announced that 17 people had been named as suspects. Umar was one of them… Head of Public Relations of Central Sulawesi Police… said that investigators charged 16 suspects with beatings, which carries a 5-year prison sentence. One other worker was charged with arson, which carries a 12-year prison sentence.

The workers used to call the main gate of PT Gunbuster Nickel Industry as Pos IV. It was in front of this gate that the National Workers Union (SPN) held a strike until 5:00pm, on 14 January 2023… SPN made eight demands:

  1. The company is obliged to implement OHS procedures in accordance with applicable regulations.
  2. The company is obliged to provide complete PPE to workers according to the standardisation of the type of work or work risks at the work site.
  3. The company must immediately make company regulations.
  4. Stop wage deductions that are unclear.
  5. Stop PKWT [fixed-term employment agreement] for permanent jobs.
  6. The company rehires employees (SPN members) who were terminated as a result of the previous strike.
  7. The company installs air circulation in every warehouse or smelter to prevent dust.
  8. The company clarifies the rights that have been given to the families of the deceased Made and Nirwana Selle in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

… On 14 January, Jumardin (Umar) almost did not go to work… at around 10:00pm, his co-workers called Umar… They asked Umar to come to work… They needed Umar's presence as the person in charge… Umar went to PT GNI at 10pm. When he arrived at Post IV, his motorbike was prohibited from entering. He parked his motorbike at Post IV, then went inside… The clash occurred at 11:00pm. At 1:00am, Umar left for Post IV. He was arrested by the police along with 71 other people. Another source said more than 80 workers were arrested.

… Since the “clash” between Indonesian and Chinese workers, and the detention of dozens of workers, Sunday Bulu has not slept well. He was wanted by the police. At first, he was asked to testify as a witness. Then, in April 2023, he was named a suspect. Together with Amirullah, Sunday Bulu was charged with incitement, which carries a sentence of 5-6 years in prison…

However, after the events of 14 January… his fate is now in the hands of the state. His movements were monitored when he was still a witness… While attending a discussion forum with a number of labour unions in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, three policemen picked him up and took him back to North Morowali, an 8-hour journey by road…

SPN was formed at PT GNI on 21 April 2022. On 23 May, the union was registered at the North Morowali District Labour and Transmigration Office. However, when the SPN organisers gave a letter of notification to the company leadership about the establishment of the union, the company clamped down.

One by one, the union organisers did not have their work contracts renewed. Initially, three union leaders were targeted, including Amirullah, as of July 2022. The next wave hit Bulu Sunday. In total, 10 union leaders of PT GNI were fired by the company, including two who had their contracts terminated after the 14 January strike. The modus operandi varied, but the majority had their contracts terminated by PT GNI management. Some were forced to resign.

Since 9 February 2023, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) of Central Sulawesi, Dedi Askary, has sent a letter to the National Police Chief… and the Central Sulawesi Police Chief… to suspend the suspects' detention. However, the letter was ignored.

The number of suspects is confusing. Initially the police said 16 plus 1. However, the pretrial appeal letter submitted by the lawyer team, the number of suspects was 16. Meanwhile, in the indictment reading letter on 17 April 2023, the number changed again to 15 people.

The Head of Public Relations of the Central Sulawesi Police… and the North Morowali Police Chief… confirmed that there were 18 suspects and the case had been submitted to the Poso District Attorney's Office.

The 16 suspects were charged with public violence, one with arson and one with incitement. Police Chief… said the 18 suspects were not charged for the deaths of two workers, one Indonesian and one Chinese, which were widely reported as a result of the 14 January "clash". The case of the two workers' deaths is still under investigation, said the Police Chief.