Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hundreds Protest Outside Chevron Office

Amidst much discussion about how Indonesian workers are demanding more from multinationals operating in IndonesiaOke Zone is reporting that hundreds of workers demonstrated outside Chevron’s PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia (CPI) office in Riau.  Serikat Buruh Sejathera Indonesia (SBSI) organized the demonstration, which was protesting the firing of 59 workers.  Perhaps most interesting, the workers were actually fired by a subcontractor providing services to Chevron, but they have chosen to take their claims directly to the multinational.

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NYT: Discontent Among Indonesian Workers

Indonesian workers demanded higher wages during a protest in Jakarta on Nov. 29 (Enny Nuraheni/Reuters)

The New York Times has this article on the concern, particularly among foreign investors, regarding increased worker militancy in Indonesia.  The articles discusses some of the notable strikes of the past year, including miners at Freeport, KASBI workers at Carrefour, and pilots at Garuda.

“Cheap wages and outsourcing, these are the main issues in Indonesia,” said Abdul Rahman, a Carrefour employee and the secretary general of the union, known as Kasbi, which represents about 130,000 workers.

He and others have been negotiating with the company for improved contracts since a 1,000-person strike in late August, but talks have gone nowhere. The same cycle has played out repeatedly since Carrefour entered Indonesia in 1998, said Mr. Rahman, 33, who has worked at the company for 11 years.

United by discontent, Mr. Rahman and his fellow activists are far from alone. Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is also among the top 20 economies in the world, with growth this year of around 6 percent. On Thursday, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded the country to investment-grade status. More than 50 percent of its 240 million inhabitants have entered the middle class, according to the World Bank, which defines that as those who spend between $2 and $20 a day. Still, many of them toil for barely a living wage, offering some of the cheapest labor in Asia.

In recent years, though, this labor force has watched certain sectors grow fat on rising commodity prices and booming domestic demand, and increasingly, it is pushing for a greater share of company profits.

Strike To End At Freeport

From Reuters:

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc and its Indonesian workers’ union expect to sign a pay deal soon, ending a 3-month strike that has crippled production at the world’s second biggest copper mine, union officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The strike has been the highest profile stoppage among a slew of worker pay protests in Indonesia – signs of growing unrest over rising costs and a sense that the country’s economic success is not being shared by all.

The two sides have agreed to a pay rise of 37 percent over two years to end Indonesia’s longest-running industrial dispute, including a 24 percent rise in the first year, said Juli Parorrongan, spokesman of the Freeport Indonesia union.

E-Action: Support Hotel Workers In Cambodia

This appeal for online support comes from the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF).  Below is the story, you can send your message here.

Workers unfairly terminated for trade union organizing at the five star Angkor Village Hotel and Angkor Village Botanical Resort Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, are fighting for their rights, their jobs and their union – and need your support. With the support of the IUF-affiliated Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF), unions were legally formed at the two hotels in July this year. The owners retaliated by dismissing a total of 67 of the 90 workers at both hotels. The owners have defied rulings of the government Arbitration Council, court orders and official mediation that the workers were unjustly dismissed and must be reinstated in their jobs. The workers continue to peacefully demonstrate at the hotels despite police intimidation and arrests. You can support them by using the form below to send a message to the owners demanding the immediate reinstatement of all dismissed workers with back pay, and the recognition of their unions.

Rising Labor Unrest In Indonesia?

Below is an excerpt from a Straits Time article, reprinted in The Jakarta Globe, discussing increased labor unrest in Indonesia.  This is a theme that has been raised in a number of different articles on labor in Indonesia and Southeast Asia more generally.  While there have been some high profile strikes recently, most notably at Freeport and Garuda, I have yet to see an article that thoroughly differentiates whether this is a trend or just a series of high-profile disputes.  It certainly is worth noting, though, how the Freeport strike may be having spill-over effects.

But the days of docile labor may be changing, with a 6.5 percent growth spurt giving many Indonesians a new-found prosperity.

The three-month-long strike at Freeport Indonesia’s copper and gold mine is significant because of its unmistakable message: that employers cannot expect business as usual when commodity prices – and profits – are at an all-time high.

“It is having a huge impact,” Indonesian Employers Association chairman Sofyan Wanandi told The Straits Times, pointing to the way unions are educating themselves on the Internet. “The workers here are trying to copy what they are doing at Freeport and our government is too weak (to respond).”

Faced with a threatened strike – and a looming gubernatorial election – Jakarta’s city administration last week buckled to demands for a 20 percent increase in the monthly minimum wage to 1.52 million rupiah (S$220) – the lowest salary for a single person with less than a year’s experience.

More than 10,000 workers marched in Batam on Nov 24 demanding a similar increase, and there have been signs of further unrest among state railway, airline and telecommunications employees, and in industrial parks around the nation’s capital.

Only 3.3 million of Indonesia’s workers belong to unions, or 10 percent of those in the formal economy, which in turn is just a third of the total economy. That number is actually less than what it was in previous years, but labor experts say it takes time to build a genuine movement.

Apart from the Confederation of All-Indonesia Workers’ Union, the only state-sanctioned union during the Suharto era, there are now three other confederations embracing nearly 80 different federations and 11,000 workplace unions.

Critics claim the national-level organizations have been hijacked by political interests, leaving the workers in much the same situation as before, with inadequate wages and poor conditions.

The cash-strapped confederations are more political in their approach because their main role is to lobby for changes to the labor laws and seek improved social protection. They are also very weak.

Freeport union leader Sudiro seems to have forged stronger linkages to international labor organizations, such as the United Steelworkers, than to his own confederation.