INDONESIA « 67% workers were still obligated to go to work. However, 25% of them did not received any protective equipment, such as hand-washing facilities, and disinfectants from the factory »

Author: Dian Trisnanti, Chair Person F-SBPI (Federation of Indonesian Unity Trade Union) Date : November 25th 

1. What have the consequences of the health crisis for the population been – especially for the working class? What has the COVID impact been on employment, how many jobs have been lost? 

During pandemic of Covid 19, Indonesian government published some policy that against workers right. 

In the middle of March, the Minister of Manpower issued circular letter which legitimate the cut of wage and furlough. Many workers that employed with short term contract found it was even worse. They were being laid off without compensation. Besides, based on online survey we conducted at the end of March to early April, 67% workers were still obligated to go to work. However, 25% of them did not received any protective equipment, such as hand-washing facilities, and disinfectants from the factory. 

The Ministry of Manpower stated that over 3,5 million workers have been laid off during the pandemic, while KADIN (Indonesian Chamber of Commerce & Industry) claimed the number reached 6,4 million. 

2. Are there any figures available concerning the lives lost of workers in general and particularly front-line workers, including doctors and other hospital staff? 

We do not have data on the number of workers in general who lost their lives due to Covid 19. However, for medical workers, at the end of September the IDI (Indonesian Medical Association) stated that 228 medical workers including doctors had lost their lives due to Covid 19. 

3. What measures were taken or not taken by the government to cope with the pandemic? Were any wage deductions imposed by the bosses and governments? 

The government has implemented a basic food distribution program. However, in urban areas such as Jakarta, this often creates problems. To obtain the food, workers must have a Jakarta ID card. But most of the workers come from other provinces, so it is very difficult to get the food distributed. The government also implemented Kartu Pra-Kerja (pre-employed card) program. But, this program is very difficult for workers to access, so that the government only wastes the budget. On the contrary, the government provides many easing to entrepreneurs, such as tax relaxation. But, the boss continue to do whatever they want by violating workers Right. 

4. What new attacks against workers’ rights and democracy were launched by the bosses and governments during this year, as they took advantage of the pandemic? 

The Indonesian government, deliberately using public anxiety situations as an opportunity to pass controversial laws that threaten workers’ rights, called Omnibus Law on Job Creation. In the name of ease of doing business, this law amended several laws. One of the most controversial is amended the Employment Act No 13/2003. With this new law, the working conditions will be more precarious. Demonstrations or simply discussions held against this law are often get repressed by the police. 

5. For years, the number of workers in the informal sector has continued to increase. The fight against precarious labour must lead the labour movement to think about organizing these workers. The workers in the informal sector have paid a heavy price in the healthcare crisis. What has their situation been since March 2020? What reactions has this triggered? 

During pandemic, their situation are worse. Garment workers who were laid off, mostly work in small garment factory (its a house that 

hired tens to 50s workers) with low wage (under minimum Wage) and in bad condition. Unfortunately, they don’t have any choice but continue working in the precarious job. Once they got job in garment factory (formal sector), they will work in short contract (21 days -30 days) with no work no pay system’. Off course, its the part of our program to win their normative rights. Therefore, we organize them and the program to eliminate contract and outsource system’ become our priority. 

6. Women workers have also been particularly hit. They are the first to lose their jobs, the last to be taken back at their work places when they reopen. They have to take in charge their children deprived of schooling. Domestic violence has increased with the lockdown. What form has it taken ? What mobilisations have taken place to defend the rights of working women? 

In KBN Cakung, we built Women Workers Help Desk that advocate gender based violance such as domestic violance, sexual harrassment, maternity rights, etc. During pandemic we advocate 2 Cases of domestic violance and many more Cases that were not reported since the fear to speak up. 

We have demonstrations to address these issues every Tuesday with Alliance of Women Movement (Gerak Perempuan) in front of Indonesian Representatif House. In addition, in the moment of Anti Violance Against Women Day, we have demonstration with many organizations, including unions. It also happen in Medan, North Sumatera, in which the alliance of women and unions held demonstration on Anti Violance Against Women Day. 

7. With the new technologies, the capitalists dismantle labour relations, restructure companies and destroy jobs. What are the consequences and what are the threats to labour relations in the coming period ? 

Of course, the labor reserve will increase, so wages will always be low. Therefore, investments targeted by the omnibus law, with the promise of expanding jobs, are finding less and less relevant. Because of this, the union density will continue to decline. Therefore, broad alliances with the people need to be further strengthened. 

8. What were the positions of workers’ organisations and their leaderships during that period? What were the demands? What was their attitude towards the plans designed by the bosses and the governments? 

In addition to advocating at the factory level regarding cases of layoffs or wage reductions that have occurred, the labor unions that are members of Gebrak (labor movement with the people) have a role in mobilizing young people to reject the omnibus law processed by the DPR (house of representatives) in the midst of the pandemic. Of course, what we demand is that the government focus on dealing with the pandemic. We demonstrated countless times with strict health protocols because the situation is so urgent. However, even though this movement succeeded in generating widespread enthusiasm from the people, it must be admitted that we have not succeeded in competing with the grand plan of the business-government alliance to pass the omnibus law. However, the resistance will continue. 