Between surviving and corona: The dilemma facing workers and ojol drivers

CNN Indonesia – March 18, 2020
Women workers at factory in Indonesia – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s plea for workers, students and worshipers to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) can’t be followed by all workers. There are groups who have to continue working outside the home in order to keep kitchens fires burning despite the risk of the fatal disease.

Factory workers and ride-hailing motorcycle drivers (ojek online, ojol) are two examples of such groups.

Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance Confederation (KASBI) Chairperson Nining Elitos says that factory workers are still working as usual in the midst of the alert over the corona virus. It is impossible for those who work in factories to stay home.

According to Elitos, there needs to be a policy from the government for workers to stop work temporarily but without the loss of wages and leave entitlements.

“Related to the safety of many people at this time, why is it only high-school students, university students and the general public who are being asked to stay home, but workers must continue their activities”, Elitos told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday March 17.

According to Elitos, workers also face a dilemma related to the spread of the corona virus. On the one hand, workers need to think about their own safety. On the other hand, concerns that wages will be cut also haunt them if they don’t work.

“When indeed this threatens the lives of ordinary people, the government must take quick action to anticipate people falling ill including workers, and not forget to ensure that workers’ rights not be abrogated”, she said.

Yesterday, Labour Ministry Public Relations Bureau Head Raden Soes Hindharno said that the ministry is intensively discussing a special regulation for the private and manufacturing sectors which depend on production activities in the factory.

The reason being that heavy equipment in factories cannot easily be taken home so workers can work from their own homes.

They will produce a policy which benefits all parties equally. In other words, manufacturing companies will not be hurt financially if all of their employees work from home.

“Lest companies are hurt financially, closed down because there’s no production. But they still have to pay employees. So this is still being discussed first, particularly for companies that produce things”, Hindharno told CNN Indonesia on Monday March 16.

Ojol still hitting the roads

Aside from workers, it is different again for ride-hailing drivers. They are concerned that that the government will enforces a lockdown policy or close down access to areas because of the corona virus.

When contacted separately by CNN Indonesia, Indonesian Two-Wheel Action Movement (Garda, app-based motorcycle taxi drivers) Presidium Chairperson Igun Wicaksono said that Widodo’s appeal for people to work from home has already resulted in a decline in drivers’ income.

“Work from Home (WFH) which is being suggested by the government has indeed had the result of reducing the number of passengers, let alone if there’s a lockdown”, said Wicaksono.

According to Wicaksono, if a lockdown policy is enforced then there will have a significant impact on ojol drivers’ ability to earn a living.

“We who on a daily basis depend on orders from customers, both passengers, food orders as well as goods deliveries will be face restrictions (if it is enforced)”, he explained.

Wicaksono is aware that the corona virus epidemic is no small matter and they are already anticipating that the virus will spread to ojol drivers and their customers.

He is appealing to all ojol customers to start bringing their own motorcycle helmets in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

In addition to this, Garda has also prepared a health protocol for ojol drivers to anticipate the spread of the virus.

There are 15 points in the protocol including asking ojol drivers to wear surgical masks or N-95 series masks, asking drivers to use helmets which cover the face, wearing clean gloves and cloths which fully cover the body.

Then covering the neck with a buff or scarf, wearing proper shoes and socks and carrying a hand-sanitizer and liquid antiseptic soap.

The protocol also appeals to ojol drivers to prepare disinfectant to clean equipments and that ojol motorcycles not be brought into the home and be washed with disinfectant. Drivers are also being asked to take vitamins to bolster their body’s immune system.

Ojol drivers are also being asked to maintain the hygiene of food and beverages, diligently wash their hands with liquid soap containing antiseptic, avoid contact with people suspected of being infected with Covid-19, prepare plastic or special bags to store cash and coins and immediately check their health if they experience flu symptoms or a cough. (dmi/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Dilema Buruh dan Ojol: Antara Asap Dapur dan Risiko Corona”.]