A region official of Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (KSPSI – Confederation of Indonesian Labor Unions) has announced plans to run for Governor in the province of Banten. Chairman of KSPSI Banten Dwi Jatmiko plans to run in the October 2011 election and will be going up against the Mayor of Tangerang, Wahidin Halim, the Bupati of Lebak Regency, Mulyadi Jayabaya, and the incumbent Governor, Ratu Atut Chosiyah, the first female governor in Indonesia.
Despite the competition, other KSPSI officials pointed out that KSPSI has 600,000 members in the province. Over a decade since reformasi in Indonesia, there are few success stories involves labor-based political parties or politicians, but I will keep an eye out for more news on this campaign.
From a Detik.com article, translated into English by the Indoleft News Service:
Despite the drizzle, scores of domestic workers (PRT) remained indifferent to the falling rain and continued washing their bosses’ clothing. After being washed, it was then dried and ironed. So it was that on February 14 the Hotel Indonesia (HI) traffic circle in Central Jakarta became a giant laundry encircling the entire roundabout. During the action the protesters also hung up T-shirts with “Bosses prosperous because of domestic workers” and “Recognition, rights and decent work for domestic workers” written on them along with a giant billboard with the message “100 pieces of domestic workers’ washing drying so the bosses can wear neat and clean clothes”.
The demonstrators, who came from the Domestic Workers Action Committee (KAPRT), also held a theatrical action depicting their demands and symbolising the labour performed by domestic workers.
“When Indonesia commemorates National Domestic Workers Day on February 15, around 2.6 million domestic workers will still lack legal protection”, said one of the speakers, Umi (26), at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Jl. MH Thamrin on Monday.
From a Jakarta Post editorial calling for the passage of UU Perlindungan PRT (Law Protecting Domestic Workers):
Jumiyem, an activist of Serikat PRT Tunas Mulia in Yogyakarta, said many domestic workers were living a far from reasonably comfortable life. “They face living conditions as if they are slaves. Many of them are underpaid or not receiving wages,” she told The Jakarta Post over the telephone.
Moreover, many workers are facing excessive workloads, unclear job responsibilities, and excessive working hours, reaching between 12 to 16 hours per day, which might negatively affect their health.
Such a strong dichotomy between domestic workers and labor in other sectors has meant unfair and discriminative policies towards domestic workers. Furthermore, they are unable to get legal protection at local, national and international levels.
Amnesty International (AI) said Indonesian domestic workers, which are mostly women and children, are susceptible to exploitation and mistreatment unless the government and its counterparts in the legislature pass a Law on Domestic Workers Protection
You can send a message in support of Dole workers in the Philippines whose union, Amado Kadena–National Federation of Labor Unions–Kilusang Mayo Uno (AK-NAFLU-KMU), has been under attack since 2006. You can read more about the campaign and send a message to support the workers by following the link here.
From an Amnesty International press release:
Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, said: “As Indonesians commemorate National Domestic Workers Day on 15 February, some 2.6 million domestic workers remain outside the law’s protection. “Currently the 2003 Manpower Act, which safeguards workers’ rights, discriminates against domestic workers. The Act does not provide the same protection it affords other workers, such as reasonable limitation on working hours and provisions for rest and holidays”. The failure to pass a bill to protect domestic workers in Indonesia, more than a year after it was prioritised by parliament, leaves domestic workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
The result is that women and girl domestic workers live and work in abusive conditions which take place out of the public eye. They experience economic exploitation, and physical, psychological and sexual violence on a regular basis.
Sam Zarifi added: “The delay in extending legal protection to domestic workers seems at odds with steps the Indonesian government has taken to improve protection of Indonesian migrants, including domestic workers, outside the country. While we support these actions, there cannot be double standards when it comes to human rights protection.”
There have been a number of articles recently, such as this one in The Wall Street Journal, discussing what lessons Indonesia’s transition to democracy offers when considering Egypt’s potential transition from an authoritarian regime to a democracy. One may consider Indonesia an equally interesting comparison regarding the role of and outcomes for the labor movement in Egypt’s potential democratic transition. In particular, what does the survival of Indonesia’s New Order-backed labor federation suggest about the future role of Egypt’s state-sponsored Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). I raise this possibility as it has been reported today that over 500 workers and activists demonstrated outside the offices of the regime-backed ETUF calling for the federation’s dissolution, protests which led to physical confrontation as the protesters attempted unsuccessfully to storm and occupy the offices (photo below).
Now, before I go any further, I should point out that I *do not know enough* about the Egyptian labor movement to know how apt this comparison is. However, what happens to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation going forward will provide an interesting new case study on the role of regime-backed labor union in new democracies.
Political scientist Teri Caraway published a paper in 2008 examining how one explains the continued survival and, often, dominance of authoritarian regime sponsored labor unions in newly democratic contexts, using Indonesia’s New Order-backed Serikat Perkja Seluruh Indonesia (SPSI) as her main case study. In the case of Indonesia, SPSI has survived and remains one of the major labor federations in Indonesia. Caraway finds that SPSI has managed to maintain its position, despite initiating only limited internal reforms to make the union more democratic, largely due to contextual factors, such as institutional advantages inherited from the old regime, partisan links, organizationally weak competition, and a weak national economy. She argues that legacy unions will tend to rely on these institutional advantages to maintain their organizational dominance, only undergoing as much democratic reforms as a given context requires.
How do Caraway’s finding match up with the Egyptian case? That is for someone who knows the Egypt context well to examine. What is certain is how important the transition period is to the future of any labor movement in an emerging democracy, as Caraway explains below:
Legacy unions are a profoundly enduring aspect of nondemocratic regimes, and this article shows that competition is not enough to break their lock on power. Their dominant position in many new democracies provides part of the explanation for why labor movements are so weak. By crowding out new organizing and holding members captive, they limit the promise that democratization holds for unions to vigorously pursue improved working conditions and worker welfare. The continued dominance of legacy unions—in the absence of internal reform—thus has important normative and political consequences (p1393)