Workers rally in Jakarta as Constitutional Court rules on anti-worker Jobs Law

CNN Indonesia – October 2, 2023
KASBI workers move towards Constitutional Court rear entrance in Jakarta – October 2, 2023 (CNN)

Hundreds of workers held a demonstration near the Arjuna Wiwaha or Horse Statue in Central Jakarta on Monday October 2 to coincide with a Constitutional Court (MK) ruling on a judicial review of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation.

The workers had planned to demonstrate in front of the nearby Constitutional Court building but they were unable to approach the location because police closed off the road with concrete barriers and razor wire.

By 11 am the workers had already began to fill the Horse Statue area.

"We are asking the Constitutional Court to decide to revoke Law Number 6/2023 on Job Creation (Ciptaker) which has already been declared [conditionally] unconstitutional", said Labour Party President Said Iqbal at the Horse Statue.

Iqbal said there will be huge demonstrations if the Constitutional Court does not find in favor of the lawsuit and the pressure being conveyed by workers. He stressed that labour groups would not stop holding demonstrations.

He also warned the Constitutional Court to be careful in making its decision because Indonesia has already entered a political year, referring to next year's legislative and presidential elections.

"The MK must careful, this decision is being taken approaching a political year. Potential conflicts must of course be anticipated. There is no intent here for us to disturb public order, but we cannot guarantee, a MK ruling that does not side with labour groups, farmers and the working class, it will definitely be like putting a fire to gasoline", he said.

Ruling to be announced today

The Constitutional Court is holding a hearing today to announce its ruling on a judicial review of the Jobs Law.

The judicial review was submitted by five groups including the Indonesian Federation of Trade Unions (FSPI), the State Electricity Company Trade Union (SP-PLN), the Mining, Energy and Pharmaceutical Trade Union Federation (FSKEP) and elements of the All Indonesia Trade Union Confederation (KSBSI) represented by Elly Rosita Silaban and Dedi Hardianto.

Simultaneous actions

Also expected to take part in the protests at the Constitutional court are workers from the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) and the Labour Movement with the People (Gebrak).

According to a posting on KASBI's Twitter account, at 10 am they will begin marching to the Constitutional Court building from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) office on Jalan MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta.

Earlier, Iqbal claimed that as well as protesting at the Constitutional Court on Monday, the Labour Party would hold simultaneous actions in several cities across Indonesia including Bandung (West Java), Serang (Banten), Semarang (Central Java), Surabaya (East Java), Batam (Riau Islands), Aceh and Medan (North Sumatra).

"And these actions will be organised directly by the Labour Party, with two main demands, namely revoke the Job Creation Law and raise the 2024 [minimum] wage by 15 percent", he said in a written release.

Thousands of police and military deployed

According to police, they are deploying as many as 6,520 personnel to secure the demonstrations on Monday.

"In total there are 6,520 joint personnel that we have deployed to secure the demonstration", said Metro Jaya regional police spokesperson Senior Commissioner Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko in a statement.

Of the thousands of personnel, as many as 4,530 are from the regional police (Polda), the district police (Polres), the tactical police unit (Samapta) and the paramilitary Mobile Brigade (Brimob). Meanwhile 1,680 others are from the army (TNI AD).

"And from Pemda [the local government] there are 310 personnel", said Andiko, adding that "We are also preparing to divert traffic heading in the direction of the demonstration", he added.

Second rally behind court building

While workers from the Labour Party and the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI) were protesting near the Horse Statue, demonstrators from KASBI headed towards the rear of the Constitutional Court building.

By 3.40 pm, hundreds of workers from KASBI had packed Jalan Abdul Muis around 500 metres from the rear entrance to the Constitutional Court where they were held back by police.

The protesters, who were wearing red uniforms, stood in front of the police line while others gave speeches calling on the Constitutional Court to annul the Jobs Law.

Protesters from the Labour Party meanwhile remained near the Horse Statue where they had been protesting since 11 am.

Labour Party and KSPSI workers clash

Protesters from the Labour Party led by Said Iqbal and KSPSI led by Jumhur Hidayat were also involved in a brief clash on Monday afternoon.

The workers from the KSPSI arrived at the location at around 3.30 pm bringing placards with the message "Jokowi Resign", referring to President Joko Widodo, and immediately began giving speeches opposing the Jobs Law

Not far from the front ranks of the KSPSI workers were demonstrators from the Labour Party who had gathered on Jalan Merdeka Barat near the concrete barriers setup by police.

Initially the two groups held their own individual actions, but at around 4.45 pm Labour Party protesters from the Indonesian Metalworkers Trade Union (SPMI) or Garda Metal (the Metal Guard) and the KSPSI began throwing things at each other.

The situation escalated with the two groups pushing and shoving each other while speakers from the KSPSI command vehicle tried to calm the situation.

"Our interests are the same, the Jobs Law", said a speaker from the KSPSI command vehicle. Meanwhile a speaker from the Labour Party command vehicle could be heard saying, "We're waiting for coordination".

Leaders from the Garda Metal then climbed up onto the KSPSI command vehicle and appealed to the two sides to stop. As a result, the two groups finaly calmed down.

The KSPSI is divided into two camps, namely those led by KSPSI General Chairperson Andi Gani Nena Wea and those led by Jumhur Hidayat, who is a deputy chairperson of the KSPSI. The Andi Gani has joined the coalition of labour groups backing the Labour Party while the Hidayat camp has not.

At around 7.20 pm, workers from the Labour Party, the KSPSI and KASBI began disbanding leaving the Horse Statue area one after the other.

Traffic from the direction of Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Jalan MH Thamrin heading towards the Horse Statue began flowing smoothly again. Several police officers could be seen removing the concrete barriers and razor wire installed earlier to stop the workers from approaching the Constitutional Court building.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski based on five articles by CNN Indonesia on October 2. The original title of the lead article was "Massa Buruh Demo UU Ciptaker Tak Bisa ke MK, Tertahan di Patung Kuda".]