In the post-pandemic recovery, many unions in the hotel & tourism sector are rebuilding their membership and recruiting new members. The IUF-affiliated Federation of Hotel, Restaurant, Plaza, Apartment, Catering and Tourism Workers’ Free Union (FSPM) in Indonesia has also grown its membership through new union organizing. But what stands out as an achievement of FSPM is its success in winning the reinstatement and re-employment of members who were terminated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more remarkable is that FSPM won re-employment in hotel properties that changed their management brand.
Some examples include:
- 15 union members returned to work at Grand Asia Hotel on August 1, 2023, three years and four months after they were laid off when the hotel shut down its operations in April 2020.
- 32 months after Crowne Plaza Jakarta announced its closure, FSPM won the re-employment of 77 union leaders and members at the hotel property under its new name Artotel Mangkuluhur.
- Three years after Accor’s Fairmont Sanur unfairly terminated workers for forming a union, FSPM continued to campaign, finally winning re-employment for union members at the hotel property under the new InterContinental Bali Sanur Resort management.
Early in the pandemic, Grand Asia Hotel Jakarta decided to close its operations in April 2020. Even though the union had called management for wage negotiations during the closure, management unilaterally fixed wages at less than half the legal minimum wage. In response FSPM launched protest actions and filed a case with the North Jakarta Labor Inspector in January 2021.
In March 2021, Grand Asia Hotel Jakarta management stopped paying wages altogether. All 41 workers were terminated in October 2021. FSPM escalated its protest actions, demanding reinstatement. After a series of negotiations with management, union members still determined to resume work were finally offered re-employment. Out of the original 41 members, 15 were determined to work again. They resumed work on August 1, 2023.
As many as 202 workers at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jakarta were forced into redundancy in June 2021. Their wages were unpaid since the hotel closed in September 2020. The hotel property changed its brand and management to Artotel and resumed operations in June 2023. However, daily workers (casuals) were hired instead of recalling the laid off permanent workers.
FSPM had been campaigning for their reinstatement through constant protest actions every week in front of the hotel and reported the case to the South Jakarta Manpower Department. As a result, finally in June 2023, 77 permanent workers were called back to work. Unpaid wages during the lay off period (32 months) will be paid in installments.
FSPM also succeeded in negotiating with the owning company to immediately process the payment for the severance pay of 22 workers who retired and 94 workers who found alternative employment and did not want to work at the hotel anymore.
The struggle is never just the success of union leaders alone, but all of union members. With the patience, faith and trust that members gave, it determined the direction of union’s struggle that brings successes.
At Accor‘s Fairmont Sanur in Bali, 68 workers were forced to sign “voluntary” resignation letters at the end of July 2020. All of them were members of the union. The workers refused and two days later received termination letters declaring them redundant. Although management claimed that the workers were redundant because of the economic situation, their real motives were exposed when they allowed workers to return to work on the condition that they quit the union.
Despite the inaction of Accor Indonesia and the failure of Accor global management to address these rights violations, FSPM continued to mobilize in Bali and to exert pressure on the property owner and local authorities to win reinstatement. Finally when the hotel reopened as InterContinental Bali Sanur Resort, union members still determined to work at the hotel were re-employed.
There will be an outcome for a struggle if we really fight for what we think is right. Of course we need consistency and sacrifice. But time will finally answer. Members should not be afraid to fight alone, since FSPM has proven they are not alone and demonstrated unquestionable solidarity.
Getting through a struggle day by day is not easy, especially when it is a struggle for reinstatement, amidst wages that have been unpaid for years, and families that need to be supported every day, not many can survive. But if we struggle together and remain united, then it is not impossible to see the the good result of our hard work and struggle.
Commenting on FSPM’s recent wins, the elected Regional Secretary, Hidayat Greenfield, observed:
FSPM is steadily winning and rebuilding its union strength in the face of very difficult challenges. What FSPM reminds us is that there is no “strategic campaign”, “leverage” or other gimmick or magic trick to grow union membership and build union strength. There are no short cuts. It’s just a combination of relentless determination, courage and a strong sense of justice and dignity for workers.
The Regional Secretary added:
Where others would have given up, FSPM kept fighting. Regular protest actions, mobilizing solidarity among FSPM members, tough negotiations, legal action, and continued organizing. Only the combination of all of these can produce the wins that FSPM is known for. Legal action or mediation alone will achieve little. In fact, any form of mediation and even legal victories often only translate into financial compensation – not the restoration of rights. Financial payouts don’t build union strength. Only through restoring rights do unions get stronger. FSPM reminds us of this important fact.
The most common slogan in FSPM rallies, protests and strikes is “berani berjuang pasti menang!” (have the courage to struggle and we will surely win!). It is with this determination and courage that FSPM members and their families are surely winning.