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Laid-Off Nike Workers Stage Jakarta Protest

About 2,000 factory workers marched through the Indonesian capital Jakarta Tuesday to protest being laid off from their jobs making Nike products. The workers say they want to keep their jobs or else they want more compensation for losing them.

Wearing headbands and blue T-shirts, the demonstrators blocked traffic as they marched through central Jakarta. They say they are to be laid off next month, and they want more compensation from Nike, the giant U.S. maker of sports shoes and clothing.

"This demonstration is against Nike policy to cease their production from this company," said Rustam Aksam, president of Indonesia's Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Union, who marched with the crowd. "So it means that around 7,000 workers will be retrenched."

The Nike Corporation does not own any factories in Indonesia. Nike has a contract with P.T. Doson Indonesia to produce athletic shoes and other products. It is not renewing its contract with Doson, but still has contracts with other Indonesian companies.

The demonstrators were not complaining about working conditions at the Doson factories. Mr. Rustam said most want to continue to work. But if they cannot, they want adequate compensation.

P.T. Doson is offering employees roughly $60 in compensation, but the workers are demanding five times that amount. However, Mr. Rustam says Nike should be held responsible for the workers' well being. "They have an Indonesian company here, but Nike [is] giving order[s] to them," he said. "So we demand to the responsibility of Nike for the social security of these workers."

In a statement released Tuesday, Nike says it expects P.T. Doson to meet its obligations to its staff. Nike Indonesia general manager said the company notified Doson last February that it would discontinue its contract.

Nike says it will continue to work with nine other footwear subcontractors, which employ more than 60,000 people across Indonesia.

Nike also says it is implementing four support programs related to compensation, loans, education, and future employment for the staff laid off by P.T. Doson Indonesia. The Nike Corporation has come under fire in recent years by labor organizations. They allege Nike exploits workers in the Third World through low wages and poor working conditions, charges that Nike denies.