Workers to rally on May Day despite Covid-19 threat, ban on demos

CNN Indonesia – April 19, 2020
KASBI workers march through Central Jakarta on May Day – May 1, 2019 (CNN)

Jakarta – In the midst of the corona virus pandemic, tens of thousands of workers from the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) and the Indonesian Labour Council (MPBI) claim they will take to the streets to hold an action on April 30 in the lead up to International Labour Day or May Day which falls on May 1.

The workers’ desire to hold the action has been opposed by the National Police Headquarters (Mabes Polri) because of protocols related to the corona virus or Covid-19.

KSPI President Said Iqbal says that workers will still hold the action despite a written notification being rejected by police headquarters.

Aside from opposing the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, Iqbal said that the action will also protest the fact that workers are still being forced to work in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If indeed the action is prohibited, why aren’t workers being sent home. This is the assumption which we feel is unjust”, Iqbal told CNN Indonesia by telephone on Sunday April 19.

Iqbal said that the workers will be making three demands: rejecting the Omnibus Law, calling for an end to mass sackings and workers to be furloughed but still receive wages and full holiday bonuses (THR) for the Idul Fitri holidays at the end of the Muslim fasting month.

The action, he said, will be centred on the House of Representative (DPR) building and the office of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy in Jakarta.

Related to the action, Iqbal criticised the position of DPR members who he said have no empathy with workers by continuing to deliberate the Omnibus Law during the Covid-19 pandemic when there is no urgency to do so.

DPR members and the government, continued Iqbal, should be discussing the emergency of mass sackings which threaten millions of workers in Indonesia as a result of the corona virus. He also highlighted working conditions where to this day workers are still in the factories despite the enforcement of large scale social restrictions (PSBB).

Iqbal said that the action will be cancelled if the DPR and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy halt the deliberations on the Omnibus Law.

“It’s a PHK emergency. Millions of people will be sacked after the pandemic. Why isn’t the DPR discussing this?”, said Iqbal.

“Millions of workers are still working in factories and are not being sent home despite the PSBB. In Jakarta, Bekasi they’re all still working”, he said.

Iqbal explained that they submitted a written notification of the action with the police headquarters on Friday April 17 but the notification was not accepted.

A second notification on Saturday April 18 but was sent back by priority currier. This, said Iqbal, was in accordance with the procedures stipulated in Law Number 9/1998 on demonstrations.

“Meanwhile we don’t know what the Mabes Polri and Polda Metro’s [Metro Jaya regional police] position on this is”, he said.

Iqbal said that during the action workers will apply the protocols for the prevention of Covid-19. He claimed workers would wear masks, bring hand sanitizers and maintain physical distancing.

The Metro Jaya regional police said earlier that they would refuse all requests for activities involving gatherings of people during the corona virus pandemic, including protest actions on May Day.

This ban on protest actions is stipulated in an Indonesian police chief declaration on dealing with the corona virus and reinforced by the enactment of the PSBB in Jakarta.

“Any kind of mass gathering is absolutely prohibited, including if they want to demonstrate during the pandemic, moreover we will not issue a permit”, said Polda Metro Jaya public relations division head Senior Commissioner Yusri Yunus when contacted by CNN Indonesia. (thr/ugo)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Buruh Akan Gelar Aksi May Day di Masa Corona”.]