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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs             28  July 2011

Garuda pilots may strike

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Garuda Indonesia pilots did not back down on Wednesday from their threat to strike and were ready to stage a walkout after salary negotiations failed, a union chief said, though the state carrier countered that flights would operate as scheduled.

The union said it would carry out its plan to go on strike at midnight on Wednesday after talks between management and pilots fell apart, Stephanus Gerardus, chairman of the Garuda Indonesia Pilots Union (APGI), said at a press conference at a South Jakarta restaurant earlier in the day.

“This is not merely a power play,” he said. “We are using our right to strike as a last resort because our demands are being ignored [by management].”

He did not say how many pilots would take part in the strike, but he underlined that the strike’s directive applied to all 543 Indonesian members of the union.

“The core problem is that there has been mismanagement, starting when Garuda bought new airplanes in 2010, but there were no pilots to operate them,” Stephanus said. “This has affected operations, making pilots work long hours, and that could be dangerous.”

The flag carrier leased a new fleet of Next Generation Boeings but did not have enough qualified pilots to fly them, so they sat in hangars.

Maintaining the planes without flying them sent Garuda’s net income into a nosedive to Rp 515.5 billion ($60.8 million) in 2010, a 49 percent drop from the previous year. The carrier was forced to bring in 43 foreign pilots to fly the new planes.

The union is unhappy about a disparity in salary between Indonesian members and the foreign additions. According to the APGI, foreign pilots earn $7,200 a month, including housing benefits, compared to $5,000 for Indonesians.

Garuda’s management disputes this. It says a local pilot can earn up to Rp 860 million annually, including benefits such as pensions and bonuses. Foreign pilots have a potential income of Rp 826 million, which doesn’t cover benefits.

Adnan Buyung Nasution, the union’s lawyer, said the pilots wanted to speak with Emirsyah Satar, Garuda’s president director, but that Emirsyah had not responded to their approaches.

Zainudin Malik, chairman of the Garuda Indonesia Cabin Crew Union (IKAGI), said the group fully supported the pilots’ strike.


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