United, We Win! SP PLN’s decade-long journey to unification and fight for a new CBA

“Unity will strengthen us. On the contrary, division will only weaken us.”

The truth contained in this sentence cannot be more real and palpable for Serikat Pekerja Perusahaan Listrik Negara (SP PLN). For more than ten years, the union was divided, and they had to pay the price—not having a collective bargaining agreement that led to losses for workers.

The last CBA between SP PLN and PLN Company (PT PLN Persero) was signed in 2010. It was valid until 2012 and extended until 2013 when it was supposed to be re-negotiated. However, the SP PLN split into two unions with dual leadership: SP PLN third floor and SP PLN ninth floor.

No CBA meant losses for workers

As the union failed to sign an agreement in the Perjanjian Kerja Bersama (PKB) negotiations, the interests of workers suffered. During the time without a CBA, the Board of Director issued regulations without consulting the union and the workers. These regulations mostly harmed the workers. Workers are for instance, demoted if they choose to transfer (mutation) to a different area and the career system. Workers were also banned from marrying co-workers. If a worker, decides to marry a co-worker, one of them must resign.

In the previously signed CBA, the Board of Directors was mandated to create a human resource (HR) system in communication with the union. Instead of developing a democratic HR system, the communication clause was interpreted as mere notification with no consultation nor consent from the union. In short, while there was no CBA in force, the BOD maximised its power to issue different provisions that negatively impacted workers’ rights and working conditions.

In 2016, there was an attempt to renegotiate the CBA by the union. However, the dualism in the union leadership proved to be a stumbling block for successfully concluding an agreement.

The leaders of SP PLN realised the weakness is in the division within the union. The leaders of the third floor and ninth floor-SP PLN took steps to unite themselves once again. In 2019, they initiated the unification of the union. They were tired of the division that was only benefitting the employer.

Bumps in the negotiation

It was not an easy for the newly-unified union to negotiate a new CBA. Each union claimed that it was the rightful union that have mandate to represent the workers in the negotiation. To resolve this situation, the union held a membership verification where SP PLN took an overwhelming majority, with 29,452 members. The union membership also decided to include another union, together with SP PLN to participate in the negotiation.

However, the problem did not end there. While the negotiation was still ongoing, the management of PT PLN filed a lawsuit to Jakarta Selatan District Court to determine which union was to represent in the negotiation. The District Court rejected the suit as it was an industrial relation case, not a criminal one.

Subsequently, the unions need to get a recommendation from the Ministry of Manpower on who or which union has the right to be in the negotiation. The Ministry of Manpower's recommendation was for the unions to do another membership verification. The result of the verification was SP PLN to represent the workers in the negotiation as other unions only had less than 10% membership each.

It was only then that it was resolved that SP PLN was the rightful representative in the CBA negotiation.

With the support of all members and the negotiation team, the process did not take another 10 years. The negotiation commenced on August 19, 2022 and was concluded and signed on October 12, 2022.

 The most important thing is that this CBA is oriented towards improving workers’ welfare, that essentially is the right of workers and their families. - Muhammad Abrar Ali, General Chairman of the SP PLN

New CBA: Unity in PLN’s mission and vision

The agreement consisted of 15 chapters and 90 articles. The articles were drawn from 1) several agreements previously discussed in the 2016 CBA negotiations, 2) concerns regarding the BOD’s issuances during period when CBA was absent and 3) the newest draft by SP PLN.

Overall, the new CBA is deemed as so much better than the initial draft proposed by SP PLN. Muhammad Abrar Ali, Chairperson of SP PLN, said, “The result of the negotiation was fantastic. The newly agreed CBA is beyond our expectation. It is so much better than the draft that we proposed. Thanks to the solid support of members of SP PLN and also all the functionaries.”

“I am optimistic that the CBA will improve the company's performance. It is a collective effort to accelerate the company’s transformation process. The signed CBA is a breakthrough for PLN. The union had been waiting for this for more than ten years. Through this agreement, the management and union could then harmonise their mission and vision in order to achieve PLN’s objectives,” he added.

He also asserted that the CBA had helped to unite the union’s and the management’s vision and mission. Each had its own that many times are contradicting. However, after both discussed the company’s vision and mission,

Ali added that for many times, the union and management’s vision and mission had been contradicting and the CBA helped them to realise they had the same vision and mission, “We could find it. We agreed that PLN is the heart of Indonesia, especially in managing the electricity. We work together to contribute to the nation and the state.”

Improving workers’ and their families’ welfare

Bintoro Suryo Sudibyo, Head of the negotiation team and General Secretary of SP PLN shared that SP PLN’s negotiation strategy was crucial in convincing the BOD to agree with the proposals of the union.

Muhammad Abrar Ali, General Chairman of the SP PLN also added, “This is very encouraging. The most important thing is that this CBA is oriented towards improving workers’ welfare, that essentially is the right of workers and their families. There is a minimum or nominal amount that workers can get. This means that when PLN is in financial trouble, workers are guaranteed this minimum amount paid to them. But if the situation is better, then the workers will receive a bigger amount just like what was agreed in the CBA.

Compared to the old CBA, the new CBA has better provisions in terms of annual leave and rest benefits including maternity benefits, incentives and pay, retirement, movement and transfer, extended benefits to dependents, occupational health and safety, and trade union assistance.

Moreover, the new CBA will have a indirect effect on the subsidiary companies of PLN as the agreement also commits subsidiary companies to provide the same welfare and career opportunities for their workers. In other words, workers in  PLN’s subsidiary companies must not be receive lower benefits. Hence, the subsidiaries have to ratify PT PLN’s CBA and comply with its provisions in the new CBA.

On the way to implementation

Currently, the technical guidelines for its implementation (Juknis) are being discussed with the unions. The issues being discussed include: workers’ talent management system, career system, reward management system, performance management system, discipline regulations, and also the health care system.

So far, SP PLN has shared the contents of the new CBA to several main units and majority of workers appreciate and welcome the new CBA. As a result, more workers are joining SP PLN. With the new CBA, workers are more confident the union is able to defend, protect and fight for the interests of workers.

All these prove that unity strengthen the union. Indeed, “workers united cannot be defeated.”#

Selected provisions of the new CBA (2022) between SP PLN and PT PLN