Last week workers in Bekasi took to the streets, blocking the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road in protest of a court decision that overturned an increase in the district’s minimum wage. The Governor’s decree would have increased the minimum monthly wage in Bekasi district from Rp 1. 29 million to Rp 1.49 million ($144 to $167). It appears that the protests will force the court to annul its own ruling and allow the minimum wage increase to go through.
Sulistri, a leader from the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (SBSI), gave her take on the larger implications of the protests:
The rallies, staged by workers demanding increased wages, confirmed how communications were lacking between employers and workers, said Sulistri, the vice president of the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (SBSI).
She also said that local administrations must be more proactive and responsive toward both parties, because in most cases they would act as mediators. “And, of course, it will inspire workers in other places to fight for their rights. Workers will see that taking their protest to street with huge numbers is an effective way to be heard,” she said.
While in another article, Timbul Siregar of the Indonesian Workers Association (OPSI) says it is part of a larger trend:
Timbul Siregar, chairman of the Indonesian Workers Association (OPSI), said on Sunday that workers were beginning to realize that radical organized protests were the key to accomplishing their objectives.
“Protesting in front of the mayor’s office or the State Palace is a thing of the past,” he said. “Workers have learned that the way to be heard is to shut down the country’s economic vein.”
Union activists at Mandiri Bank in Dili have been sacked for union activity. You can support the union by signing a petition urging the company to reinstate the union leaders and allow the workers to organize freely.
From Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA:
Mandiri Bank, the largest in Indonesia, has operated since 2003 in Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili. Mandiri is one of small number who operate in the growing finance sector of the recently independent Asian nation. They, alongside others including Australia’s own ANZ, have enjoyed a growth in business in the years since their arrival.
Similarly, a small but dedicated trade union movement have started the task of organising workers following Timor’s independence.
Serikat Pekerja Bank Mandiri Timor-Leste (SP-BMTL), or the Mandiri Bank Workers’ Union (MBWU), was established in 2006 and represents 41 of the 42 workers employed by Mandiri in their Dili office.
However, in recent months bank workers have faced a severe pushback in their right to conduct union activities in the workplace. Continue reading
The online magazine Inside Indonesia has dedicated its latest edition to the question of “Where Is The Left?” and its includes an article on the current status of the labor movement that argues that despite the lack of inroads labor organizations have made in politics and institutional power, their power has emerged in the form of street protests. Here is an excerpt:
As far as labour groups are concerned, the strategy of street protests is fundamentally different from the more established ways of dealing with the state and business interests in that it thrives in the absence or in the non-functioning of official institutions of representation, such as political parties, parliaments and the tripartite bodies. Where they perceive institutions of political power to be unresponsive, labour groups provide alternative channels of political participation by their public claim-making and collective actions. Street politics force the reconfiguration of power relations in ways that bypass the careful negotiations and deal-making that take place inside official political institutions. Just when democracy in Indonesia is taking shape and many people are most concerned with its institutions and procedures, labour groups are developing a tradition of popular challenges by way of conflicts, confrontation and potentially dangerous disputes.
The Indonesian Constitutional Courts recently made an important ruling that could improve the working conditions of contract workers throughout the country by annulling parts of the 2003 Labor Law that allowed companies to subcontract work in order to avoid paying benefits to workers.
From The Jakarta Post:
Millions of contract-based and outsourced workers will regain their rights, including monthly salaries, allowances, severance pay and social security benefits after the Constitutional Court annulled rulings on temporary workers (PKWT) and outsourcing set out in the 2003 Labor Law.
The Court’s panel of judges decided unanimously on Tuesday that all chapters on contract workers and outsourcing in the Labor Law were no longer effective because they contravened the Constitution, which assures the protection of workers and their rights.
The Constitutional Court annulled Chapters 59, 64-66 of the Labor Law at the request of Didi Supriyadi, chairman of the Power Meter Readers Union, who was outsourced by a partner company of the state-owned power company PT PLN in Surabaya, East Java.
Since the Labor Law’s enforcement in 2003, many small companies have employed contract-based workers in construction projects and plantations and many others outsourced a part of their work, such as security and cleaning services, to other companies to avoid providing health, meal and transportation allowances and social security benefits to cut labor costs.
Chapter 59 stipulates that labor contracts can be made for temporary work that can be finished within three months at the most while Chapters 64-66 allow companies to outsource parts of their work not included in their core business to other companies.
Separately, the director general for industrial relations at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, Myra Maria Hanartani said the ministry was preparing a circular to be disseminated soon to all companies, foundations and other institutions employing workers to comply with the Constitutional Court’s decision until the Labor Law was reviewed.
At a meeting in Yogyakarta, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) and the hotel workers union Federasi Serikat Pekerja Mandiri (FSPM) called on the Indonesian government to improve working conditions in the tourism sector and threatened to report it to the UN-sponsored World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE).
From The Jakarta Post:
Hemasari Dhatmabumi, Indonesia’s representative for the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF) said they, alongside the Independent Workers’ Union Federation (FSPM), would report the Indonesian government to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE) under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), should it fail to immediately provide welfare assurance and protection to the workers.
“We demand that the Indonesian government immediately adopt the WCTE regulations and enforce the 2009 Tourism Law,” Hemasari said at the opening of the meeting in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.
[note]: The Jakarta Post misspelled the name of Hemasari Dharmabumi
The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) has set-up an online campaign in support of Teuku Nantasyah (Nanta), a union leader who was arrested and subsequently lost his job. You can follow the link above to a send a message and read more about the case:
Nanta was released but struggle continues now for his reinstatement. Remember, few months ago, Teuku Nantasyah (Nanta), FKUI Chairman at Lafarge Cement Indonesia (PT.SAI Lafarge) was arrested by police in Aceh and detained for 30 days. It is only after international pressure that Lafarge took the case seriously and requested the police to release Nanta. ACT NOW! Take one minute of your time to sign our solidarity campaign calling for his reinstatement.
For months Nanta has been engaged in the struggle for workers’ rights against the management. Nanta has been protesting against bad working conditions and raising the issue of decent wages for contract workers. The company employs 215 contract workers.
Nanta has been a contract worker for more than 20 years, earning roughly IDR. 90,000 (USD. 10) per week without proper occupational safety and health equipment and social security.
It is interesting to note that the basis of the campaign is an International Framework Agreement (IFA) between BWI and Lefarge. IFAs are not collective bargaining agreements. Rather, they are agreements in which a multi-national corporations commits to maintain certain agreed upon labor standards and are an important vehicle through which the Global Union Federations (GUFs), such as the BWI, can support local affiliates. You can go here for more information on the goals of IFAs and which companies have signed IFAs with the BWI.
If you are reading this blog, then you may be interested in this recent article by Eric Lee, founder of the incredibly useful website Labourstart.org, in which he briefly discusses the history and future of online campaigns for labor activism.
With Working Indonesia, I have mostly posted about online campaigns involving workers in Southeast Asia. If you would like to see a list of these campaigns, you can click on the “E-Action” category keyword.