[Note from sender: Although this article does not mention it anywhere, it seems likely that the ILO will soon pass a resolution censuring the Indonesian government, probably on the grounds of denying freedom of association. Suwarto's statement was mostly likely made in anticipation of this resolution.]
Indonesia is set to defend its policy of one government-sanctioned labour union when it takes part in the upcoming International Labour Organisation in Geneva on June 6-23.
Director-General for Industrial Relations and Labour Standards Suwarto said yesterday that Indonesia expects some industrialised countries to attack its trade union policy.
The Indonesian government recognises the SPSI (All Indonesian Workers Union) as the only legal labour union and refuses to be shaken by the West's criticism that the government here is suppressing the freedom of association.
"Developed countries should not pressure Indonesia and other developing countries into accepting their concept of freedom of association," Suwarto told the Jakarta Post.
"Every nation has its own right to determine the most suitable form of trade union which is compatible with the local values," he said.
Suwarto said that a recent ILO meeting in Geneva, which made preparations for June's 82nd ILO conference, was held by developed nations to make the Third World revise Convention No. 98 on the freedom of association, which it believes needs to be implemented in its broader, international meaning.
"What is good in the United States is not necessarily good for Indonesia," he said, adding that Indonesia had ratified the ILO convention but it has been enforced in accordance with socio-political conditions.
He said it was impossible for Indonesia to adopt the Western concept of freedom of association due to differing political, social and cultural backgrounds.
The labour situation in Indonesia will be plunged into chaos if the West's labour system is applied here, he added. "History has proven that the establishment of many labour organisations in the past resulted in political chaos."
Suwarto argued that Western countries should also take into consideration the quality of workers in Indonesia when they are criticising the labour record.
"Just imagine, most Indonesian workers are elementary school drop outs and only 11 per cent of them have joined the labour organisation," he said.
If more labour organisations are established, Suwarto said, they will become weaker and there will be more opportunity for certain anti-government groups to use them to serve their political interests.