Kevin's Blog

Last night I went to a very special cafe in Bandung. The cafe is called BJ’s but it is better known to its patrons as the ”Solidarity Cafe” and the story behind it should be an inspiration to us all.
16 months ago the workers at the Hotel Aquila joined the FSPM and demanded to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement to improve terms and conditions.
The hotel responded by sacking all the 136 union members.
The union mounted a vigorous protest campaign and established a picket line. After 4 months the police prevented the workers from mounting the picket, so feeling secure with police and de facto, state suppor,the hotel ignored all attempts to open negotiations and the dispute dragged on.
In order to sustain the workers and to create a centre for the struggle the workers opened their own cafe. It is probably the best cafe in Bangdung! It is staffed by professional chefs , waiters and bar staff. The food is fabulous (and costs around a tenth of the price the hotel charges!) and the service comes with a broad smile of solidarity.
The cafe opens from 4pm to 4am and staff from other hotels and restaurants drop in at the end of their shifts.
While I was having a drink with the workers and trying to video record an interview about 20 members of the Motor Cycle Club turned up and the noise of their bikes brought the interview to an abrupt end. They greeted me one by one, so perhaps I should explain that the Club and other Motor Cycle Clubs in Bandung turn up at all the demonstrations to offer their support to the workers. Strictly moral support you understand!
The workers case has been taken up by the IUF who have initiated ILO procedures to call the Indonesian government to account.
Meanwhile the spirits and solidarity of the FSPM members remains strong and determined as they serve in their self-funded cafe which stands just around the corner from the hotel which sacked them 16 months ago.
It was a privilege to meet them and I hope that our Branch can find some way to express in practical terms our admiration and solidarity.
Their next big demo is on the 16th of this month.
The message they asked me to send you is a simple one expressed in their native Bahasa Indonesian language;
“Berani berjvang. Pasti Menang.”
“Dare to struggle. Dare to win”