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Victory for Indonesian Workers After News of Nike Thugs Spread
Labor rights groups exposed bullying as footwear giant attempted to swindle workers out of minimum wage
Indonesian factory workers claimed a small victory on Tuesday after news spread that suppliers for international sportswear behemouth Nike paid local military personnel to intimidate them into agreeing to below minimum wage pay.
Workers at the Nike shoe factory in the west Java city of Sukabumi will now be paid a higher minimum wage after reporting that they were bullied into signing a petition saying that they supported the factory's claim to be exempt from the recent wage increase.
After news of the harrassment leaked, the Jakarta Globe is reporting that the factory has revoked their application for exemption.
Three labor rights groups— US-based Educating for Justice (EFJ), the Alliance for Labor Unions in Indonesia (MPBI) and the Trade Union Rights Center—revealed on Monday the findings of a recent investigation into several Nike factories that were seeking wage exemptions.
ABC Australia reports:
In mobile phone footage of the factory, shown to ABC, a man standing over workers can be heard telling them, "you all have to sign it".
The woman who took the footage does not want to be named, but says she and other workers tried to reject the pay restriction.
"We got summoned by military personnel that the company hired to interrogate us and they intimidated us," she said.
"The first thing that scared me was his high tone of voice and he banged the table.
"And also he said that inside the factory there were a lot of military intelligence officers. That scared me."
Additionally, EFJ director Jim Keady reports that trade union officials at the factory were deceived into signing the agreement when a meeting's sign-in sheet was “fraudulently attached to a document that stated the signatories agree to the factory management’s requests to be exempt from the new minimum wage.”
"Nike unfortunately exercises imperialist values—values that run counter to the commitments to democracy and human rights," Keady said.
Indonesian workers won a 44 percent minimum wage raise to 2.2 million rupiah ($228) a month after millions of workers striked this fall over low pay and cost of living increases; the pay increase in Jakarta was supposed to be made effective January 1.
According to the Surya Tjandra, director of Indonesia's Trade Union Rights Center, at least six Nike-contracted factories had applied for an exemption to the recent pay increase, allowing employees to be paid $3.70 a day instead of $4.
"You have to provide financial conditions of the company in the last two years which show some not profit, and then you have to accept some consent from the workers directly, which is not that easy because for the workers, the new wages is [sic] actually better and fairer," he said.
Of Tuesday's news that the Sukabumi factory was retracting their bid for exemption, Keady said:
I’m very happy for the workers in the factory. They are getting the justice they deserve.
Now we have to move forward case by case, factory by factory and make sure that in all 40 [Indonesian] Nike factories, the 171,000 workers get what they deserve.
So far, the investigative team has only looked into shoe manufacturing plants, but they suspect the majority of Nike apparel factories will also be trying to avoid paying the new minimum wage.