Ni Komang Erviani and Andra Wisnu , The Jakarta Post , Denpasar | Wed, 12/17/2008 11:13 AM | Bali
The Bali Tourism Workers Union, particularly in the Badung regency where over 200,000 workers depend on tourists for their livelihood, is bracing itself for possible mass layoffs as the global financial crisis persists.
Head of the Badung chapter of the Bali Tourism Workers Union, Putu Satyawira, said the financial crisis had already begun to affect the island’s tourism industry, citing numerous booking cancellations in several star-rated hotels.
The current global financial crisis could hurt tourism workers more than the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, saying that the provincial government could give assurances in terms of security back then, he said.
“But right now, we are completely helpless because it’s all happening out there and there’s nothing we can use to assure tourists to come here,” Satyawira said.
He said the holiday season at this year’s end might soften the blow to the island’s economy, but was quick to add that his organization had begun talks with hotels to prevent mass layoffs, which he predicted could happen in February of next year if the global financial crisis continues.
He said his union, which represents some 10,100 tourism employees in the Badung tourism industry, was ready to help workers keep their jobs, citing its experience with the last mass layoffs that occurred in the advent of the Bali bombings.
“The bombing attacks gave us insight as to how we can cooperate with employers so they can keep their workforce and, at the same time, save money in times of crises.
“There’s good communication between the workers and the employers now, at least in Badung, and I think that will help reduce the possibility of massive job losses.”
As many as 5,000 workers were laid off during the January to September period after the 2002 bombing, he said. The bombings that occurred in 2005 caused several hundred hotel employees to be temporarily suspended from work.
Satyawira further urged unions and tourism associations to come together and brainstorm to find ways to increase the number of tourists.
“I think all parties are interested in preventing Bali from suffering economically in light of this crisis.”
According to the Bali Workforce, Transmigration and Population Agency, there have been no reports of layoffs directly linked to the financial crisis, though the agency chief, Komang Rai Sudjaka, said the crisis remains a threat to the livelihood of tourism workers.
“But we’ve always urged employers to be more humane in dealing with employees in anticipation of the crisis,” Rai Sudjaka said.
“For example, they can reduce overtime or maybe suspend employees temporarily. Just don’t simply fire people.”