ITUC-AP backs Indonesian workers, calls for Omnibus Law to be scrapped

Java Post – March 12, 2020
Students and workers rally against Omnibus Law in Surabaya – March 11, 2020 (Java Post)

Protests against the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation have also come from international labour organisations. Trade unions affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) are urging the Indonesian government to scrap the draft law which has already been submitted to parliament. The ITUC-AP, which is based in Singapore, believes the draft law will harm workers.

“We fully support the fight by Indonesian workers against the Omnibus Law”, said ITUC-AP Secretary General Shoya Yoshida yesterday during a press conference at the Sari Pacific Hotel in Central Jakarta on March 11.

The ITUC-AP understands that the Draft Omnibus Law is aimed at attracting foreign investment, raising economic growth and creating job opportunities, but they believe it is one-sided because it overly benefits investors while workers’ rights are ignored.

“[According to] the results of our analysis, the Omnibus Law will be directed towards liberalisation and reduce worker prosperity through low wages”, said Yoshida.

The ITUC-AP agrees with Indonesian trade unions that the law, among other things, could result in undermining minimum wages. Minimum wages will be based on economic growth at the provincial level. This will abolish regency and municipal minimum wages.

Through the Omnibus Law, wage regulations will become the prerogative of provincial governors. This stipulation conflicts with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention Number 131 on Minimum Wages.

Under this convention, minimum wages are set through a tripartite mechanism involving regional governments, business and trade unions. “The spirit of this draft law is to push for an extension of low paid workers”, explain Yoshida who comes from Japan.

Rolling protest actions against the Omnibus Law meanwhile have occurred in several parts of the country.

Yesterday it was East Java’s turn for people’s anger to boil over. Thousands of people from the Movement Against the Omnibus Law (Getol) filled the Frontage Road on the western side of Ahmad Yani in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya.

They demanded that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo drop the draft law which has already been submitted to the House of Representatives (DPR) for deliberation.

The protesters, who had been gathering since 1 pm, began the action in the vicinity of the Waru Airport in nearby Sidoarjo. They then moved north to hold an action and give speeches at the Frontage road, which was closed throughout the action.

Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) Labour and Urban Poor Division Head Habibus Shalihin explained that the Omnibus Law will abolish permanent workers who would be replaced by contract and non-permanent workers. This flexible labour system will also allow for regulations on the minimum wage to be revoked.

On the other hand, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin says that the government will open the door for dialogue on the Omnibus Law with all concerned parties.

He insists that the draft law represents a demand by the public to fix the problem of too many laws and regulations. Amin used the term “an obesity of legal products”.

One of the problems he touched on was overlapping regulation and the many regulations which are complicated and convoluted. “So, if there are those who oppose it, I think it would be better to discuss the issues on which there is still no agreement”, he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Omnibus Law Dinilai Melanggar Konvensi ILO”.]