Amid corona outbreak, trade unions postpone mass rallies against Omnibus Law

Liputan 6 – March 18, 2020
Workers protest against Omnibus Law in Jakarta – Undated (Media Umat)

Ilyas Istianur Praditya, Jakarta – The Indonesian Trade Union Council (MPBI) has confirmed it will postpone mass actions against the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation.

The MPBI, which includes three of the largest labour confederations, the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI), the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI) and the Indonesian Confederation of Prosperity Labour Unions (KSBSI), had planned to hold a mass action on Monday March 23.

However because of the rapid spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) they have decided to temporarily postpone the action.

“The MPBI hopes that the government and the DPR [House of Representatives] will empathise with the spread of corona by postponing deliberations on parts of the Omnibus Law related to labour”, said KSPSI President Andi Gani Nena Wea in Jakarta on Wednesday March 18.

Wea insisted however that if the DPR secretly continues with the deliberations, it won’t be long before masses of workers take to the streets again.

According to the latest data recorded by the MPBI, the three labour confederations who have declared their readiness to protest at the DPR expect some 80,300 protesters to attend the March 23 rally along with millions more across Indonesia.

Political safari

Wea also revealed that they have been conducting a safari to meet with political parties. The result has been to get political parties to criticise the Draft Omnibus Law. Although the first political party to declare its criticism of the law was the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“We respect the PDI Perjuangan’s position which has been conveyed through its Secretary General Hasto Kristiyanto. Thanks also to [PDI-P] Chairperson Bu [Mother] Megawati [Sukarnoputri]”, he said.

KSPI President Said Iqbal is asking that the postponement of the March 23 action not be used by the DPR as an opportunity to continue secret deliberations on the Omnibus Law. Particularly given that they want to push it through and finish the deliberations within 100 days.

“We ask that the government and the DPR focus on handling corona. If workers are prepared to postpone the action, the DPR should also be able to postpone deliberating the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation”, he asserted.

Moreover, said Iqbal, they have yet to see any serious efforts by the government to ensure the corona virus does not spread rapidly and proliferate, particularly in industrial areas.

“The most vulnerable are workers in the factories. Millions of workers all in the same place. [Going to work] in the morning and returning home at the same time. All in the same busses. They’re very vulnerable in such crowds”, he said.

According to Iqbal, factories should give workers leave using a rotational scheme in order to avoid large numbers of people gathering together. So far, the only effort companies have made is to provide hand sanitizers and urge workers to apply a culture of clean living, which he believes is not effective enough.

Iqbal also explained that the level of hygiene in factories varies, saying that unlike small companies, the majority of big companies do not practice good hygiene policies.

This situation is made worse by the lack of clear measures by the government and employers to address workers’ safety.

KSBSI President Elly Rosita Silaban claimed that she still has hope in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. She is convinced that the government will listen to the voices of workers on the Omnibus Law. Silaban is also concerned that the corona epidemic will be massive and is calling on workers not to underestimate the situation.

“We are asking trade unions not to underestimate this situation. The fight against the Omnibus Law on Job Creation will be continued. The DPR must not try to take advantage of the situation by holding secret deliberations and then all of a sudden it’s ratified”, she said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Ada Virus Corona, Buruh Tunda Aksi Besar-besaran Tolak Omnibus Law”.]