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ACTU support for SPSI

The ACTU has cecome a tool of the Paul Keating government

1994 has been a year full of conservationism in the Australian Labour Party under the leadership of prime minister Paul Keating. Keating has enthusiastically become the principal supporter of Indonesia as the organiser of APEC. His goal is clear, for Indonesia to become a field for investment and marketing for Australian commodity products (removing the Japanese capital and market). With the slogan "Free Trade", Keating has closed his eyes to linking free trade with the implementation of human rights and democracy for workers.

The ALP obviously does not feel that trade alone is sufficient. Under the influence of the conservative line of the ALP, the ACTU has blatantly given financial help to the "yellow" trade union SPSI (Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia, All Indonesian Workers Trade Union). The ACTU is being used as a tool by the owners of capital to facilitate Australian capital investment in Indonesia. With this policy he ACTU is clearly no longer an independent federation, but has become an instrument of the government and Australia capital.

The interests of the Australian government and capital who are using the ACTU, clearly betrays workers in Australia. PPBI, as a representative of Indonesian workers, is absolutely certain that Australian workers do not agree with the ACTU being a tool to oppress the labour movement in Indonesia. The Indonesian military authorities have never legally accepted any trade union outside of SPSI. Furthermore, through Bakorstanas (Badan Koordinasi Bantuan Pemantapan Stabilitas National, Coordinating body for the maintenance of National Stability) and Bakorstanas decree number 02/Stanas/XII/1990, the military is given full authority to resolve labour disputes in place of SPSI or Depnaker (Department of Labour). Many workers are dismissed by police, Kodim (Komando Dearah Militer, District Military Command) and Koramil (Komando Rayon Militer, Military Headquarters and the ward (kecamatan) level. Scores of labour activists in Medan (North Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java) have been arrested and tried. A number of labour activists have also been killed by the military (see the Marsinah case and Titie Sugiarti)

The structure of SPSI itself is engineered and filled with military people and owners of capital. Independent trade unions such as SBSI (Serikat Buruh Sejahtra Indonesia, Indonesian Trade Union for Prosperity), SBM (Serikat Buruh Merdeka, Free Trade Union Setiakawan), SBBT (Serikat Buruh Bebas Transportasi, Transport Workers Free Trade Union) and PPBI themselves will never be given legal recognition from the authorities.

Under conditions of oppression, terror, repression, murders, torture, goalings and intimidation of independent trade union activists, the ACTU has stained its hands with blood. The ACTU no longer be giving financial support to SPSI either directly through the sectoral unions or indirectly though the ILO. ACTU Tactic to Deceive Australian and Indonesian Workers

After its collaboration with SPSI was revealed, the ACTU tried to create a new justification to defend itself. Martin Ferguson, the president of the ACTU, presented a new justification to deceive Australian and Indonesian workers. Ferguson stated that because of extensive corruption and diversion of funds, the ACTU was no longer working with SPSI. The grounds to not assist SPSI took a more moralistic tone. The ACTU should have denounced SPSI for being a tool of the military regime and capital in the control and consumption of Indonesian labour, not just on the grounds of corruption.

Because there is no longer joint work with SPSI, his lordship Ferguson now states that the ACTU will only work with the sectoral unions. This is clearly an extraordinary justification. In essence, the ACTU has simply followed the SPSI policy line. As a consequence of pressure from the US GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) team, the government changed SPSI's structure to a federation through Department of Labour Decree Number Per- 03/Men/1993. This degree stipulated that labour organisations must be formed as a federation of trade unions, with a minimum membership of ten trade unions. Each trade union having at least one hundred units at the factory level, boards at the branch level in 25 Level II areas, and at least five boards at the Level I area. If the nature of the work is special, such that it is difficult to organise, the conditions are that they must have ten thousand members which are spread across all work zones.

Clearly it is impossible for a free trade union to implement this as any such formation in a factory is immediately faced by the military. Workers activists are dismissed, arrested and usually interrogated by the military and accused of being "communist agents."

Take for example the establishment of SBBT. The government and SPSI to this date continue to consider SBBT illegal. In fact its organisers are frequently interrogated by the military. The actions of the authorities toward SBBT are precisely because it is a sectoral trade union outside of the authority of SPSI.

If we see the logic of his lordship Ferguson's argument, it is very apparent that his scenario conforms with that of SPSI. If SPSI returns to being made up of sectoral trade unions and by stating that the ACTU only assists the sectoral trade unions, this means that the ACTU continues to assist SPSI.

This argument ala Ferguson, must be understood by Australian and Indonesian workers. PPBI explicitly rejects all of the ACTU proposals to assist the sectoral trade unions in Indonesia, because they are constituant members of SPSI. If the ACTU funds sectoral unions, this means the ACTU is providing help to SPSI.

Meanwhile the other demagogue of the ACTU, Peter Duncan, in a television interview, circumvented the issue of the freedom of workers to organise by branding existing free trade unions in Indonesia as being full of Marxists and communists. Peter Duncan works for ILO (International Labour Organisation) in Indonesia. But what he really works as an agent of the ACTU to manage Australian funds which are being channeled through ILO and then released to assist SPSI programs. Peter Duncan's office in Indonesia is at YTKI (Yayasan Tenaga Kerja Indonesia, Indonesian Labour Foundation), an institution created by the Department of Labour and SPSI.

Through black propaganda in which free trade unions are referred to as a hotbed of "communists", Peter Duncan seeks to deceive the Australian working class. Through the stigma of communism his desire is that the Australian working class will not support free trade unions in Indonesia. This is clearly groundless black propaganda. Peter Duncan wants to avoid the real issues, that is that the ACTU has never wanted to work with free trade unions in Indonesia but rather, with SPSI. The Australian working class must be aware that the arguments ala Peter Duncan will twist the facts to justify this.

What must be done by Australian workers for Indonesia?

Australian workers must be aware and informed of the policy being taken by the trade union bureaucrats in the ACTU. The bureaucratic leaders in the ACTU must be responsible to the whole Australian working class. Particularly with regard to the role and support which is being given directly and indirectly by the ACTU to the yellow union of the New Order regime.

Australian workers gave political support to Indonesian freedom and revolution in 1946 when dockyard workers blockaded Dutch colonial ships carrying supplies and weapons to control Indonesia. Known by Australian workers as the "Black Armada", this constitutes an example and proof that the Australian working class has been an ally of the Indonesian peoples' struggle. We are certain that our comrades, Australian workers will never agree with the actions of the ACTU leadership in supporting the New Order military regime.

All forms of ACTU joint work and assistance with SPSI give new strength to SPSI and the authorities to oppress the labour movement in Indonesia. Indonesian workers' wages, which average around US$1.00 per day for eight to ten hours work has never been the concern of SPSI. SPSI is only a tool of control providing cheap labour to attract foreign capital. Conservative trade unions like this are now being assisted by the ACTU bureaucracy.

Workers in Indonesia plead with the Australian working class in Australia and to national trade unions throughout Australia, to conduct an investigation into the Australian funds which are being used to oppress the Indonesian labour movement. For the Australian working class, as an ally of the struggle of workers in Indonesia, it is time to challenge the bureaucrats which have made the ACTU a political carreer stepping stone or tool of the conservative ALP.

Once more we stress that the Australian working class is not an enemy of the Indonesian working class. The policy implemented by the ACTU is a policy of the Australian government. And the Australian government under the leadership of Paul Keating is a government which is subservient to the interests of capital and imperialism: interests only interested in the accumulation of profit and reaping the benefit of Indonesia's natural resources without concern for labour conditions and human rights. Imperialism and capitalism, the conservative Australian government under the leadership of Paul Keating, and the ACTU bureaucrats and its collaborators, are the enemies of the Indonesian working class. The Australian working class must be informed of the sickness inside the ACTU, and only the Australian working class can remedy this.

The establishment of PPBI

PPBI, as a national independent organisation of the Indonesian working class, is firm in this attitude. We protest all forms of joint work and collaboration with SPSI, the government and the military authorities. Under such repressive conditions, in the midst of imperialism, and the exploitation of Third World workers, PPBI will become the front line for the struggle for the Indonesian working class. The ACTU's assistance to SPSI has victimises millions of Indonesian workers. The Indonesian working class will not tolerate or compromise with those who support our enemies. PPBI can take only one course -- in a word: FIGHT!

PPBI demands that the ACTU:

  • Stop all forms of joint work, policies, compromises, and financial assistance with SPSI and government created labour institutions such as the Department of Labour, YTKI and sectoral trade unions which are supporters of SPSI.
  • Not make its organisation a tool of the Australian and Indonesian government or to facilitate bilateral trade relationships between both countries.
  • Openly provide a report and public hearing to all Australian national trade unions and existing independent trade unions in Indonesia detailing all forms of joint work which have been conducted with the Indonesian yellow trade union.
  • Joint work only be conducted with independent Indonesian trade unions and openly release a statement of support and agreement with the Australian and Indonesian working class.
  • To the working class and national trade unions in Australia, PPBI implores and invites all comrades to take concrete actions and issue clear statements in support of the labour movement in Indonesia. We invite and implore working comrades in Australia to take a critical attitude to this deception by the ACTU by:
  • Asking the Australian working class and national trade unions to explicitly not support ACTU policy on behalf of the Paul Keating government which supports the New Order military regime, and support all forms of independent trade union struggle in Indonesia.
  • Demanding that Australian workers free the ACTU from all elements, infiltration and interests which clearly use the ACTU as a tool to facilitate Australia-Indonesia trade relations under the umbrella of APEC without concern for the rights of the Indonesian working class which is oppressed and terrorised.
  • Demand that the Australian working class pressure the conservative Keating government and the ACTU to link all trade, diplomatic, policy, joint work, trade contracts, capital investment and joint economic, social, political and cultural relations with the freedom of labour to organise and the struggle of the Indonesian people for democracy.
  • Demand that the Australian working class and national trade unions act in solidarity by passing resolutions and organising joint programs directly with the independent labour movement in Indonesia and without going through the bureaucratic ACTU machine.
  • Demand that the ACTU provide an open report and public hearing to all Australian trade unions regarding their involvement in providing support to SPSI.
  • Demand that the Australian working class condemn the role of the owners of capital and the Australian government in the issue of oil exploration in the Timor Gap. The issue of the Timor Gap will always be linked to the struggle of the Timorese people. The attitude of the Keating government which accepts East Timor as the 27th province [of Indonesia], clearly does not value the rights of a people to determine their own fortunes.
  • PPBI is certain that all erroneous ACTU policies can be rectified by those layers of the Australian working class which are aware and still have a pure heart. Through this statement, the Indonesian working class asks all Australian people, and the working class in particular, to actively support the Indonesian labour struggle. With enthusiastic hope, the solidarity of the Indonesian and Australian working class can overcome the walls and treachery which has been constructed by the Australian and Indonesian governments.

    Long live Australian-Indonesian working class solidarity!
    Long live Democracy!

    Jakarta, December 6, 1994
    Center for Indonesian Labour Struggle (PPBI)

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