PT Kizone Worker Testimonies
Interviews with former PT Kizone workers in Indonesia, conducted in April 2012, one year after the workers lost their jobs when the factory closed shortly after the owner fled the country. PT Kizone was a supplier for adidas, Nike, and Dallas Cowboys.
Entis and Heni: debt, school fees, and the challenge of finding work after 40
Entis and his wife Heni both worked at the Kizone factory until it closed in April of 2011. Heni worked there for eleven years, and Entis for about the same. They have three children: an eighteen-year-old boy, a fourteen-year-old girl, and a five-year-old girl. Their oldest son, Chandra, recently graduated from a technical high school with a focus on automotive skills. Entis and Heni struggled to find money to pay for their son’s graduation; without this fee, he would not have received the diploma he needed to seek work. Ultimately, they were able to pay for the diploma thanks to the funds paid by Nike in lieu of a portion of the severance.
In May, their daughter Carlina will take her final exam for middle school, and will have to either pay an advance or leave school. Entis and Heni don’t know where they will find the Rp 3 million (US$325) they need to pay for high school registration fees – or the Rp 200,000 (US$21) per month they will need to pay in tuition.
For many years, Carlina has lived with her widowed grandmother in a rural area, where school fees and living expenses are cheaper. Before Kizone closed, Entis and Heni could send money each month to support Carlina and her grandmother. Now, they are struggling to pay rent on the one room they share with their other two children. Entis and Heni estimate that they owe about Rp 6 million (US$650) to relatives, their landlady, and the person who sells them rice at a small neighborhood store. They are grateful for the generosity of their landlady and neighbors.
Entis and Heni are in their forties, which makes it hard for them to find work. Heni is a skilled sewing machine operator, so she has been able to pick up some work, although she wears glasses and is concerned that if her eyes continue to deteriorate, she will no longer be employable. Entis worked in the cutting department, and has few hopes of finding another full-time job. He finds what work he can doing physical labor, such as unloading trucks of gravel for a few dollars a day. They have sold all the possessions that they can, and their motorbike (the family’s transportation) has been repossessed.
Suprapti: ashamed of debt, wanting to help her family
Suprapti worked as a supervisor in the sewing department. She is 40 years old and has two children, a girl in high school and a boy in elementary school.
“I was heartsick when the factory closed. Our standard of living has really dropped,” she said. “We can’t live on only my husband’s salary.” Her husband is also a factory worker, and earns the minimum wage.
Their rent is Rp 350,000 (US$38) per month, and she reports that sometimes they cannot afford both food and rent. “It’s better not to eat than not to pay rent,” she said.
Her husband has become irritable and angry since Kizone closed. “I want to help my husband, but I can’t,” she said, meaning that she wants to help support the family financially but no longer can provide real help. She takes in ironing for a neighbor, and sews clothes for friends or neighbors who will pay for her services. Her family has had to leave the house they were renting and move to a more affordable place.
Like most Kizone workers, Suprapti’s family has accrued significant debt since the factory closure, but Suprapti was too ashamed provide the number. “I’m scared to say what I owe. I don’t even want my husband to know.” She also said, speaking of her daily difficulty in meeting her expenses: “My husband says he’ll handle it, but I never have even a single coin. I don’t want to cause my husband stress, so I don’t want to tell him about our debt to the warung [the small neighborhood store].”
Her mother is a widow in East Java. “I feel so sad that I can’t help my mother. Even when I was working, I couldn’t really help my mother. There’s just no money. It’s not that I don’t love them, or that I’m stingy – there is just no money,” Suprapti said.
Suprapti feels betrayed by the factory’s closure and failure to pay severance. “I was told to do overtime and I never refused. I always felt close to the company. But now… How could the boss do this to us after all those years of hard work?”
She has heard that the factories where adidas is offering to place workers are several hours away, and says that she can’t take that kind of job because she has a small child.
Marlina: supporting children as a single parent
Marlina, a widow, worked at Kizone for eleven years. She has two children, a fourteen-year-old boy and an eight-year-old boy. She is originally from Palembang, on the island of Sumatra.
“I don’t know where to find money for school fees, for our rent, for food,” said Marlina. “Because I have no husband, I have to handle everything myself. I’m the head of the household, and I’m the housewife too. I don’t have anyone to share my problems with.”
In the six months after the factory closed, Marlina’s family accrued Rp 4 million (US$433) in debt. Using a common Indonesian expression, she said: “We’re constantly digging a hole, trying to fill it, and then doing it all over again.” She owes money to the person who sells vegetables, to neighbors, to the person who sells rice, to the person who sells gas for the stove. Also, Marlina’s well is broken, so she has no water. “I have to go to my neighbors’ houses every day to ask for water.” It would cost Rp 4.5 million (US$487) to fix her well.
Since the lay-off, Marlina has only been able to find intermittent factory work. Everything she can find is short-term contracts, often for three months; if there are orders, the contract may be renewed; if not, she looks for other work.
This month, her older son will graduate from middle school. As a widow, Marlina is given a waiver on the diploma costs, but she still has to pay monthly fees. The registration fee alone to enter her son into high school will be Rp 5 million (US$539), and high school will mean that the current tuition she pays for her two children, Rp 300,000 (US$32), increases.
“I really hope I can find more money so my son can go to high school as soon as possible. If he doesn’t have more school, he won’t be able to earn a living. If he does finish school, he can get a job. I’ll be old, I won’t be able to help him soon. Once you’re over 45, it’s hard to find a job even if you have skills. I’m 42 years old now, so I have just three years more. He really needs to get a high school diploma. These days, you just can’t find work with only a middle school diploma,” Marlina said.
Marlina has never been contacted by anyone about potential job offers from adidas. “We need money, but the factory doesn’t need us,” she said.
Marlina can provide her children with only the most basic food. “The important thing is to be able to have rice. Maybe we add some chili pepper, some salt, if we can. In terms of meat or tofu, sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. If we can, we get prawn crackers and salt,” she said. “The children know I don’t have work. They have to choose each day – do they want money to buy a snack at school, or do they want rice.”
O’om: temporary work at Green Textile
O’om, a supervisor, worked at Kizone for 12 years. She is 35 years old. After the factory closed, she was given a job at Green Textile, a factory in Cakung, North Jakarta, owned by the Korean buying agent Green Textile which had placed orders at PT Kizone on behalf of Nike and other brands. But after a while O’om left that job. Now she is told that if she worked at Green Textile, she would then be given a job at Kizone if Green was able to reopen the factory.
When O’om worked at Green, she was away from house from 4:30 am until 8:30 pm, spending about three hours in transit in each direction. She reports that she and the other Kizone workers were only given temporary status at Green Textile, and for that reason did not receive the customary holiday bonus given for Eid al-Fitr. Initially, Green provided transportation to the former Kizone workers. However, in February, they stopped providing transportation. After that, O’om and the other Kizone workers from Tangerang had to spend about Rp 40,000 (US$4.30) per day to pay for an even longer commute, which usually involved paying a motorcycle taxi for a ride to a bus stop, taking the bus, and then paying for another motorcycle taxi to the factory site. Ultimately, she and many of the other Kizone workers left Green once the factory stopped providing transportation since they could not afford to pay their own transport. It is not clear whether adidas is counting the workers who were temporarily employed at Green Textile among their total of workers employed at adidas suppliers.
“Green Textile used us,” said O’om. Since leaving Green, she has not been able to find other work. Her husband is a day laborer on construction sites. Their two children are in middle school and elementary school. “I hope I can still pay the fees. I’ve been able to keep it going to this point,” she said. O’om reports that she owes money for school fees, rent, and food from a local neighborhood shop. If she received more severance, she would use it to pay this debt. “I was excited when I heard that there was a decision from the bankruptcy court, but then nothing happened – I hear that it has been delayed,” she said.