After holding a meeting with trade union representatives on April 8, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared that the Draft Revision to Law Number 13/2003 on Labour that has already been circulating among the pubic is no longer valid. The president’s statement however gave no guarantees that the government would not carry out future revisions or that such revisions if they did occur would side with workers.
Conversely, the president’s statement indicated that the government is still determined to carry out a revisions to the labour law for the sake of “facilitating investment” as mandated by Presidential Degree Number 3/2005, which explicitly states that the labour problems are obstructing investment. For investors, the regulations that are currently in force offer too much protection to workers so that it is difficult for them to close down companies, dismiss workers, establish outsourcing companies in any sector, apply long-term work contract systems, avoid wage increase and so forth. The cost of labour is thus regarded as the problem and must therefore be reduced.
However the idea of a tripartite mechanism or the involvement of experts as promised by the government to deliberate the controversial revisions is meaningless because from the beginning the government has been on the side of capital (particularly foreign capital). This is worsened by the composition of the tripartite body itself that does not represent the interest of the majority of workers. The mechanism that should be used must be as democratic as possible, that is accommodating all trade unions and labour federations within one joint forum.
The government’s offer of a tripartite mechanism is only efforts to manipulate and contain worker actions while behind the scenes the scheme to revise the labour law will continue.
Aside from the question of the tripartite mechanism, the more basic problem is the policies of the Yudhoyono government itself that more and more side explicitly the concept of neoliberal economics, that is prioritising the interests of capital accumulation rather than workers and ordinary people. These two interests (the welfare of workers/ordinary people and capital accumulation) are mutually opposed so as a result the Yudhoyono government cannot vacillate and must decide whom it sides with. The government’s decision to withdraw a number of subsidies, facilitate and protect foreign mining companies, continue paying the foreign debt and revising the labour law however, is evidence that it sides with the interests of capital accumulation.
Based on the government’s lack of impartiality as noted above, the Workers Challenge Alliance (Aliansi Buruh Menggugat, ABM):
1. Calls on the Yudhoyono government to cancel the planed revisions to Law Number 13/2003 on Labour by revoking the section of Presidential Decree Number 3/2005 pertaining to labour. Workers need laws that protect their rights and welfare so the process of formulating a law on labour must involve the broadest possible participation of existing trade unions and labour federations.
2. Declares its full support for sustained actions in opposition to the revisions to the labour law until the government genuinely abandons the plan.
3. Calls on all workers to increase pressure on the government by joining together in alliances to oppose the revisions in order to build the unity of workers and ordinary people, starting from the factory, surrounding areas, industrial zones to the national level. The struggle has already produced a minor success however we must not be lulled into sleep by tricks that could hurt the future interests of workers.
4. Calls on all members and sympathisers of the Workers Challenge Alliance to close ranks and continue to hold joint actions at all levels that will culminate on May 1 (May Day), and as a precondition to this continue to hold actions at the regional level.
5. Calls on all workers and the Indonesian people to hold a nation wide general strike on May 1 as a form of protest and a declaration of the workers and people’s opposition to the pro-capital (particularly foreign capital) policies of the Yudhoyono government.
6. Calls on all elements of the labour movement to unite, to sit together in one forum, to formulate and present an alternative concept to resolve the labour problems that we are currently facing.
Jakarta – April 17, 2006
Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM):
SBTPI, SPOI, DPD SP PAR REF, KASBI, GASPERMINDO, GSBI, GSBM, GSPMII, FSBSI 1992, FSBI, FSPM, FSPMI, FPBI, FSPI, SBJ, SPMI, SPN, SBTPI, FNPBI, SP PT TPE Karawang, SPSI PT Texmaco,SP PAR REF BSJ CC, KB PII, PB SPBI, Aliansi Buruh Menggugat Jakarta Utara Timur Bekasi Tangerang, Forum Komunikasi Buruh Cikarang, Bubutan, KPNI, LBH Jakarta, LBH APIK, LBH Pers, LPBH FAS, PPMI, SAHAJA, SBSI 1992, SP JHONSON, TURC, YBMI, FORSPEK, KOPBUMI, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Jakarta, Liga Mahasiswa Nasional untuk Demokrasi (LMND), PRD, FMN, PBHI, FPPI, Repdem, SBI, JMD, PMII, LS-ADI, FMNR
d/a Jl. Diponegoro No. 74
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[Translated by James Balowski.]