The draft on manpower bill was finally approved by the House of Representatives on September 11, 1997, despite wide protests from workers, legal experts, NGOs and others. The bill will be passed into law on October 1, 1998.
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There are pros and cons. The All Indonesian Workers Union (FSPSI) is one of those which is pro the bill, even though its members oppose. The disagreement between the FSPSI Central Board and its members was revealed in the seminar on the bill organized by the FSPSI and ICFTU APRO on September 27, 1997 in Jakarta. Meanwhile, most workers and NGOs have opposed the deliberation of the bill.
There is no substantial change in the bill in case of protecting workers' rights, instead it is anti-workers. If passed into law, Indonesian workers will face juridical hindrances in defending for their rights, especially the freedom of association, the rights to strike, negotiate CBAs and be served by a democratic labor dispute committee.
The bill does not guarantee job security. This refers to Articles 16-19 on contract workers which do not specify the working period and type of work, saying that details will be set up in the Government Decree. Under such article, the fate of Indonesian workers will much depend on the generosity of the government to extend their working period. There is no guarantee for a long term job.
Companies prefer to apply such system to get cheaper and more easily dismissed workers without legal procedures, as well as to build self-control among the workers. Thus, there is no employer willing to extend the job contract of a worker with a "bad efficiency report", such as demanding for salary increase or being involved in trade union activities.
So far, there has not been any legal sanction by the government for the illegal practices, but the next government decree might be to legalize the practices.
The manpower bill do not fully address the freedom to organize. Even though the right to organize is mentioned in Article 27, but the next following articles just negate the meaning:
Firstly, to reduce the function of a trade union to the extend only to negotiate a CBA and being a party in labor dispute cases (Article 32).
The provision negates the workers universal right to be involved in the decision makings on economy, social, politics, laws and others which will direct or indirectly affect their lives. The provision also negates the workers public right as citizens.
Secondly, to require any trade union to register to the government (Article 33). This article is adopted from Ministerial Decree No. 03/1993 on the registration of a trade union, which is the revision of Ministerial Decree No. 01/1970.
The article opens a way to the government to intervene in the establishment of an independent trade union. Up to this time, the Serikat Buruh Merdeka (Free Trade Union) and Serikat Buruh Seluruh Indonesia (All Indonesia Prosperity Trade Union) have not been acknowledged by the government, for not addressing the government's desire. In conclusion, workers have no right to organize.
The government's interest in this case is to protect FSPSI as the only acknowledged trade union in the country. Under such condition, it is understandable that the FSPSI, as the government's instrument to control workers, supports the bill even if it is only as a pro forma. The article is quite contradictory, considering that the Manpower Ministry does not have the right to acknowledge a trade union. Under the laws, the legality of an organization is not determined by the government, but the agreement between the establishing parties before registering to the court as merely an administrative requirement.
The right to negotiate a CBA is limited, due to the following reasons:
Firstly, the CBA negotiation is limited only at the plant level (Article 48 (1)), not in the industrial sector.
This provision not only creates a social gab among workers, but also limits trade union's power to the plant level.
Secondly, the contents of the CBA should not contradict the existing laws (Article 51 (2)).
This article may have different interpretation, which is CBA negotiation only on normative rights that would reduce the CBA significance. Normative rights (legal rights/legal minimum standard), such as legal minimum wage, are the employer's obligations without the need to negotiate.
Thirdly, CBA should be made based on mutual agreement, without pressures (Article 48 (2)).
This means that workers are not allowed to strike when the management does not fulfill their demands or refuses their CBA reformation. Politically, the article is meant to cut down the workers' bargaining power.
Even though the right to strike is acknowledged in Article 74, but in practice it is almost impossible to implement due to:
Firstly, strike can only be done due to normative rights (legal rigths), in the context of law enforcement. Strikes are not allowed during CBA negotiation (Article 48 (2) on CBA).
Secondly, Article 76 says that strike is allowed only within the factory compound. This means; (a) Preventing workers to organize solidarity strikes, (b) Localizing and reducing the function of a trade union only at the plant level, =A9 Preventing mass strikes, demonstrations or workers rallies out of the government's control.
This article may be to suppress the possibility of mass strikes and labor demonstrations that have been increasing in the recent years. It should be realized that the high number of labor strikes and demonstrations is in fact caused by the non-functioning of the official industrial institutions in defending and channeling the interests of workers, who consequently find alternative ways. As long as there is no solution on the substantial problem, such restrictions would not work.
Thirdly, Article 79 says that a strike should not disturb public security and order, nor should it threaten any lives or damage the properties of the company or community.
Under this article, which has multi interpretations, a strike may easily be considered as a criminal act.
This is quite an illogical article, since any strike would normally cause public and capital disorders that would pressure the company to fulfill the workers' demands. Under such article, demand for a better working condition may be considered as a criminal case.
Labor dispute resolution should be based on mutual agreement (Article 56). In case of deadlock, the case may be solved either through court or arbitration and mediation (Article 57).
The articles are so confusing, since do not clarify the type of dispute and the labor dispute resolution committee to deal with. In fact, labor disputes should be categorized into right and interest disputes.
Right disputes, such as violations on workers rights, as mentioned by laws, and on CBA should be solved through court for law enforcement. Interest disputes, such as conflicts during the CBA negotiation or plan for dismissal, should be dealt outside the court.
Problems arose as the consequence of the articles:
(a) piling up of cases, which means longer procedures that will in turn weaken the workers' =09stamina and economy; (b) over authority of arbitrator, mediator and industrial dispute resolution committee; (c) complicated law enforcement; The government set up regulations and procedures on the appointment of arbitrators (Article 65) and mediators (Article 70). Under these articles: (a) The arbitration and mediation bodies, such as the Regional Committee on Labor Dispute Resolution (P4D) and the Central Committee on Labor Dispute Resolution (P4P), depend on the government that prevent them from effectively defend for the workers interests. Consequently, workers do not trust the bodies.
(b) There are only arbitration and mediation bodies formed by the government. In other words, it is impossible to form other such bodies either permanently or incidentally. In this case, the current bodies are more appropriately called the government administrative institution.
In conclusion, the bill does not provide any protection on the workers basic rights. Workers can only form or become members of the trade unions acknowledged by the government. It is almost impossible for them to form or become members of an independent trade union without the government's intervention. Under the new bill, trade unions function only at the plant level, in CBA negotiations and is considered as an industrial relations disputing party.
In the national tripartite body, the unions will only be considered as a legitimating body for the government's policies. Currently, there are many of Manpower Ministry policies, recommended by the national tripartite body, such as on dismissals and minimum wage that disadvantage workers.
The right to strike is limited, allowed only in the factory compound and is merely to show a law upholding by the management. Under the new bill, there will be many striking workers put into jail under criminal charges or dismissed.
The right to negotiate a CBA is also limited, allowed only at the plant level to the extend of normative rights.
Workers will easily lose their job in the future not only due to easier dismissal procedures, but also the government control on the labor dispute committees.
Under such condition the function of the manpower bill is not to strengthen the workers' bargaining power against the management, which is the key to solve the current labor problems besides the high rate of unemployment.
Instead of building a democratic industrial relations system as the key for the development of national industrial, the manpower bill is used to maintain cheap labor policy and politically obedient workers in anticipating free trade by:
Firstly, systematizing the government control on workers through: (a) establishing corporative trade unions under the government control, (b) preventing strikes, reducing negotiations, (d) handling of labor conflicts by government administrative bodies.
Secondly, putting efforts in improving workers' welfare only to the extend of their minimum wage as regulated by laws.
Thirdly, using law enforcement approach in industrial relations control by putting strict sanctions on labor law violators. But the new approach will not apply effectively under the current phenomenon of corruption and collusion. The fact that labor strikes have been an effective way to force the management to comply with the workers' normative rights should be admitted.
Considering the bad impacts of the bill will have on workers, we call on all parties to put pressures on the government to cancel the deliberation of the bill and to have it discussed again in the House of Representatives in 1997 2002 period. With the current labor laws which some kind of relatively protecting the workers basic rights, The postponement of the bill would not mean the absence of laws, looking into the fact the current labor laws are still relatively relevant to protecting workers.
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