Surya Trjandra on “Imprisoning Employers?”

In February 2008, a general manager in Pasuran, East Java was sentenced to 18 months in prison for firing four trade union leaders, a decision that was later upheld by the Surabaya High Court and the Supreme Court.  Despite this ruling, the four dismissed trade unionists have not gotten their jobs back and the employer remains free.  In a recent Jakarta Post article, Surya Tjandra of Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta gave his thoughts on what this ruling may mean for the future of labor relations in Indonesia.  Below is the conclusion to his article:

In Indonesia, such an ideal style of dispute resolution in labor relations may still need some time to manifest. The distrust between workers and employers has long corrupted the system, while there has not been much effort to resolve this.  Such a decision to jail an employer for misconduct against union activists, however controversial it is, must be seen as merely a stepping stone to balance the current disharmony within the labor law enforcement in the country.  This cannot be done through a single court ruling; instead it should be taken up widely and systematically, involving all stakeholders: workers and their unions, employers and their associations, and the government.

Earlier in the article, the author also points out that the choice by unionists to go through criminal courts instead of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry or the Industrial Relations Court suggests a lack of credibility among these institutions.

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