Organizing Becak Drivers

Becak drivers may be one of the most visible groups of informal workers where traditional trade union strategies don’t fit the structure of the labor market.  The Jakarta Post has this report on the work of the Jakarta Becak Association (Sebeja) in organizing against Jakarta’s ban an becak drivers.

Despite years of being banned, thousands of becak still operate in kampungs in West, East and mostly North Jakarta, says Marno Nandang Triwanto, from the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC). The becak drivers operate under fear of getting caught by public order officers, who confiscate any pedicabs they find.

These drivers are currently organizing a movement to protest the ban. Arguing it is unconstitutional, as it deprives them of their right to a livelihood, becak drivers staged a protest recently demanding the ban be lifted. Seventy-five drivers from North Jakarta pedaled their pedicabs to the North Jakarta municipal office, demanding the right to work.

From his becak in Koja, North Jakarta, Yusuf, 29, says he joined the Jakarta Becak Association (Sebeja) to defend his rights as a Jakartan.  “We need the money to live. I don’t mind not driving a becak, as long as the administration can give us jobs,” he says.  He adds he is enraged at the becak ban and at allegations of corruption among public order officers.

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