Monthly Archives: May 2011

Interview With Michele Ford On SBS

If you speak Indonesian, you can hear Michele Ford discuss the Indonesian labor movement, her new book Workers and Intellectuals, and the status of Indonesian migrant workers on the SBS Indonesian podcast here.

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Anniversary of Marsinah’s Murder

“On behalf of the government, as the minister of manpower and transmigration, I want to apologize for what happened in the past, which had caused Marsinah to become a victim.” – Muhaimin Iskandar, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration

This year marked the 17th anniversary of the murder of Marsinah, a young female labor activist from East Java who was killed for her role in a workers’ strike at the PT Catur Surya Putra manufacturing plant.  State security officers are believed to have played a role in her rape, torture, and murder, but the crime remains unsolved.

Memorial Demonstration at Hotel Indonesia Roundabout (TEMPO/Subekti)

There were a number of demonstrations in remembrance of Marsinah, including a Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) demo at Marinsah’s grave in Kediri, East Java, a Front Oposisi Rakyat Indonesia (FORI) demo held in Makassar, South Sulewesi, and an Aliansi Buruh Indonesia demo held in Bandung, West Java, just to name a few.

Also, as quoted above, the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration apologized for “what happened in the past” and said he supports Marsinah receiving the status of “hero,” though it does not appear that he mentioned either the specific role the state may have played in her murder or why the case remains unsolved.

What all this means is difficult to say.  The anniversary has become an occasion for activists to raise the concerns of workers.  The fact that it comes only a week after May Day might lessen its impact, but that it is based on a contemporary event in Indonesia itself might make it more important.

It has also become an occasion to raise issues specific to female workers.  A spokesperson from FORI suggested that May 8th become National Women’s Labor Day and Komnas Perempuan (The National Commission on Violence Against Women) used the anniversary to issue a statement, which The Jakarta Post describes below:

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said in a statement to mark the day that some basic rights specific to female laborers were often overlooked.

Reproductive rights, including maternity leave, are seldom guaranteed and female workers are often considered single even if they are married and are the family’s sole breadwinner, making them unqualified for social and health security services for their families, according to the commission.

Talk of Labor-Based Political Party in Indonesia

There was an interesting article in Kompas this week covering a seminar held by the Trade Union Rights Centre (TURC) in Jakarta which was entitled “The Pursuit of Social Security Reform: Transformation of the Labor Movement Towards a Social and Political Movement” (my translation).  The Kompas article focused on one issue in particular that come up during the seminar, the possibility of a labor-based political party in Indonesia.

Surya Tjandra, director of the TURC, is quoted a pointing out the dilemma faced by the labor movement regarding social security reform, the fact that other than PDI Perjuangan (PDI-P) dan Partai Keadilan Sosial (PKS), political parties in power have not shown serious support for these programs.  And Daniel* Indrakusuma is quoted as raising the key questions regarding a potential labor party:  1)  In Indonesia, will such a party actually represent the interests of workers?  2) Would workers & farmers support it?  3)  Why shouldn’t the labor movement give its votes to a party of its own creation?

Oddly, despite the first sentence of the report saying that workers in Indonesia must have a labor party similar to the labor parties in other countries, the article does not actually attribute quotes to anyone enthusiastically calling for a labor party, let alone discussing what form it should take.  Besides the questions being raised and discussed by  Surya Tjandra and Daniel Indrakusuma, the only other quote is from Mochtar Pakpahan discussing why previous attempts to create a labor party in reformasi Indonesia have made little progress.

While there was not actually much news in this particular article, it is notable that the issue is still being discussed and reported on.  And as a number of other new political parties are emerging, each with an eye on the 2014 elections, it will be interesting to see if talk of a labor-based political party goes anywhere.

*Kompas spelled his name as Danial, but if I am not mistaken, it is actually spelled Daniel.

Images From May Day 2011

Students and Workers outside Gedung Sate, Bandung (Iman Herdiana/okezone)

In Front of the DPR Building, Jakarta (Lauren/ detikcom)

Peringati May Day, Ribuan Buruh Menyemut Di Istana

Protest at Bundaran Hotel Indonesia, Jakarta (Republika)

"Indonesian laborers march towards the presidential palace during a rally to mark May day in Jakarta on Sunday. Thousands of Indonesians demanded better social security for workers as they held a peaceful Labour Day rally amid a heavy police presence." (AFP Photo)

More May Day 2011

I was not diligent enough to do this, but the IndoLeft News Service has compiled an impressive collection of English translations of the Indonesian press coverage of worker protests on May Day 2011.  Below is a list of actions, with links to the articles in English and Indonesian:

  • May Day actions centered on Malioboro, Yogya on state of high-alert – Tempo (English | Indonesian)
  • May Day protests in Yogya call for end to outsourcing, contract labour – Detik (English | Indonesian)
  • Police blockade prevents Makassar workers from occupying airport – Detik (English | Indonesian)
  • Women workers in Bandung demand right to breastfeed – Okezone (English | Indonesian)
  • May Day heats up in Jakarta after protesters set fire to tyres – Detik (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers and students unite for May Day in Bandung – Okezone (English | Indonesian)
  • Hundreds of workers in Jakarta descend on Labour Ministry – Detik (English | Indonesian)
  • Surrounded by razor wire, parliament besieged by hundreds of workers – Detik (English | Indonesian)
  • Students in Bali condemn government for failing migrant workers (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers alliance calls for improved working conditions – Komhukum (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers in Semarang say government sides with capitalists, not workers – CyberNews (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers in Sukabumi say they have no time to perform ritual prayers – Pikiran Rakyat (English | Indonesian)
  • Journalists in Aceh call for improved safety guarantees and welfare – Media Indonesia (English | Indonesian)
  • Activists and workers in Lampung say workers’ rights being trampled on – Republika (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers call for cancelation of ASEAN-China free trade agreement Viva News (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers in Purwokerto commemorate May Day with ‘sleep in’ – Media Indonesia (English | Indonesian)
  • Boyolali workers reject contract labour, call for women workers’ rights – Solo Post (English | Indonesian)
  • Solo workers commemorate May Day by ‘destroying the walls of capital’ – Cyber News (English | Indonesian)
  • Workers clash with police at Jakarta airport – Detik (English | Indonesian)

May Day 1958

Below is a sketch found in the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) periodical The Red Star (Bintang Merah) of a May Day rally held in Jakarta in 1958.

May Day 2011

“I have celebrated International Labor Day in the last five years with visits to companies.” – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

"Workers from various labor unions demonstrate outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on International Labor Day on Sunday. They demanded higher pay and called on the government to make May 1 national Labor Day." (Jakarta Post/Nurhayati)

Rather than attempt to compile a summary of all the various May Day protests mobilizing thousands of workers in locations throughout Indonesia, I will instead  suggest to English readers that they can find coverage of May Day in Indonesia here, here, and here.  The main issues raised by protesters will be familiar:  improved wages to keep up with rising prices, an end to outsourcing and contract labor, and the implementation of previously promised social security programs.

Ridwan Max Sijabat of The Jakarta Post provides a fuller explanation of the proposed social security programs, the lack of movement by the government thus far regarding their implementation, and a fairly pessimistic view of the labor movement’s ability to push for state action.

Labor unions and pro-labor legislators are organizing mass rallies in big cities and industrial estates. More than 50,000 workers and students are expected to take to the streets on May 1 to protest the government’s reluctance to start implementing its national social security system (SJSN) and its rejection of a bill on insurers.

The 2004 National Social Security System Law required the government to issue 11 government regulations and 10 presidential instructions by October 2010 to implement five mandatory universal progams — healthcare benefits, occupational accident benefits, old-age risk benefits, pension benefits and death benefits.

Ridwan Max Sijabat’s claim that “The government has paid no serious attention to the planned mass rallies for May Day mainly because they will not be fruitful,” will seem overly pessimistic to some.  However, after the press coverage of the May Day events, one might come away with a similar feeling, with May Day protests representing an annual event of political awareness, but hardly a critical political moment.  Though I am sure it is more energizing on the ground.