For two decades Sri Rezeki, Eti and Suwarni, worked every day shelling crabs and extracting crab meat at the Phillips Seafood factory in Lampung, Indonesia. As daily paid workers they worked under intense pressure to meet rapidly changing daily targets measured in kilograms of crab meat. They suffered from excessive work, injuries and ill health. Every morning for 20 years they were on standby, waiting for a text message from management to know whether they should report to the factory or not. It was an added layer of insecurity and anxiety in an already insecure job.

Just as the family-owned Phillips Seafood restaurant business based in Baltimore, USA, is investing in expanding the production of crab meat at the Lampung factory, Sri Rezeki, Eti and Suwarni – along with 37 other women daily workers – stopped receiving text messages on August 30, 2022. They were effectively terminated.

When the union demanded to know why the 40 women are no longer called to work, management claimed that it was due to “poor performance”-  failing to meet their daily targets. But what Sri Rezeki, Eti and Suwarni have in common with 35 women workers employed as daily workers for 20 years and another two women, Rusmiyati and Desiyanti, who worked for 13 years, is that they formally requested permanent jobs.They made the request in 2010, 2012 and 2017.

“performance results are just an excuse to change the workers”

After the union won recognition from the company at the end of 2021 (after a 12 year struggle for trade union rights) and negotiated its first collective agreement, the push for permanent jobs for women daily workers escalated in 2022. In response management simply stopped calling them in to work. Only after the union demanded the women resume work and be made permanent did management then claim it was due to “poor performance”. After 20 years. So the question remains: how can a company like Phillips Seafood decide that the women workers in Indonesia who extracted and prepared crab meat for its restaurants in the USA for two decades are now simply disposable?