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Imas Mutia, a sports shoe factory worker in Indoensia. Photo: Mimmy Kowel/OxfamAUS

Imas’ story

A sports shoe worker in Indonesia

I want to share my story with you, with a hope that you will see that behind each pair of shoes, there is a process that involves many hands of human beings. These human beings sometimes are sacrificing for the sake of quality. But we are living far under quality.

When consumer demands for things are quality, we the workers could barely afford quantity of our daily needs. Workers dream for improvement in living quality, while in reality, a worker can work for 20 years and can only afford to buy a motorbike through installment.

I hope people would realise that, as a consumer, they can be more responsible with the product and brand they use. Perhaps they might be willing to voice for us.

My name is Imas. I was born in September 24, 1985 in Lebak, Banten (Indonesia). I’m the second from four sisters. My older sister, Sita, is a housewife with two children. My younger sister, Annisa, is going to finish high school next year, while the youngest is in grade four at primary school. They live in Lebak with my parents.

My parents are peddlers, so they do not have fixed income. My father used to be a fisherman, but since he contracted lung problem, he could not tolerate the night wind at sea. However, the lung problem also obstructs him from doing the current job, so the business is not running well.

Imas’s first job out of high school in a garment factory

With such situation, I was lucky enough to finish high school and got a job soon after graduation (2004). My first job was in a garment factory in Tangerang (an industrial area of Jakarta). We made shirts for local market and export. I had to work overtime quite often, from 7.00am to 9.00pm. But I didn’t mind, because the payment was good. I took home 1.8 million rupiah (AUD $275) each month. I thought it was worth it, so I put up with the smell of the chemical in the factory. Unfortunately, my body couldn’t bear the condition.

Imas contracts typhoid and has to leave her job

After five months working, I contracted typhoid. I was hospitalised. I forgot for how long, but it was so long that I should quit my job. Since I resigned, I didn’t get any compensation.

So, I left broke and jobless, and stayed with my parents again. A few months later, in year 2005, my cousin told me about this job opportunity in a sport shoes factory in Tangerang. I jumped at the opportunity.

Imas finds a new job in a sports shoe factory, which produces for adidas

My first job was as an operator in assembling department, in finishing section. I had to tie the shoes laces, packed each pair into boxes. Within three years I was moved to many other sections.

To compare to my previous assignments, it is a ‘no-sweat’ job. I just have to work the normal eight hours a day. Overtime is very rare, but the wage is not as good as my previous job in the garment factory.

Low wages means workers struggle

All the workers are paid in accordance with the provincial minimum standard of wages (UMP), which is IDR 958,782 (AUD $124). Thus, if added with the allowance such as food allowance and overtime, I take home more or less IDR 1,300,000 (AUD $168) each month.

Of this IDR 1,300,000 (AUD $168) I pay per month 300,000 (AU$39) for rent 220,000 ($AU29) for transport and 570,000 ($AU74) for food. The rest (AU$27) is for other needs like toiletries (soap, shampoo, detergent) and sugar, tea.

If I economise, I can send money to my parents once every two months. Somehow I should manage to send 200,000 to 300,000 rupiah to support my sisters schooling. I don’t have saving, I invest in my sisters.

Leisure time is a luxury for Imas

An outing during leisure time is a luxury. I go to the mall at least once a month, with my friends, usually after the pay day. There’s always a friend who offer me a ride with their motorbike, so I don’t have to pay for transport.

At the mall, after pay day, we buy our daily needs. Sometimes we, the girls, cannot stand the temptation of ‘girly things’, so we treat our self with the luxury of hairdressing, or buying cheap blouses or accessories. But sometimes we just buy soft drink and then go window shopping.

I have a 14″ TV in my room. I can’t afford buying it in cash, of course. I got it through 10 months installments. Most of the workers do this to buy things.

Factory targets are “unbelievably high”

As a mass production factory, we work with daily target (of how many pair of shoes should be made). The target sometimes is unbelievably high so that you barely have time to drink, let alone time to go to the toilet. If you happen to have an authoritarian supervisor it makes the work burden heavier.

However, daily work is not always dull, if you bond with friends. If you’re lucky, you get a cooperative supervisor. I also join an independent union, which I think really help you not just when you’re facing problem, but also to fight for change in the factory. A few months ago, the union made the management increase the food allowance.

This text was translated into English from a Bahasa Indonesian voice recording.

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  • Team Sweat is an organisation based in the US which campaigns in solidarity with Nike workers in Indonesia.