Population: 230,000,000
Capital: Jakarta
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The legal framework is not conducive to trade union activities, and the right to strike is very limited. Furthermore, the government continued to undermine worker rights by failing to enforce labour laws. Unions that attempted to enforce their basic contractual or statutory rights by resorting to strikes found that the government ignored flagrant violations of law. Workers and union officials also faced criminal charges for false charges raised by employers as a way to frustrate union representation.

Trade union rights in law

Despite initial guarantees, trade union rights are not adequately secured in law. Although private sector workers are free to form unions, in order to register, a union must represent or receive the support of more than 50% of the total workforce in the establishment. Unions must also keep the government informed of changes in their governing bodies, and failure to do so can result in the loss of official recognition. A court can dissolve a union if its basic principles conflict with the Constitution or "Pancasila", the national ideology which puts emphasis on consensus and national unity. Once a union is dissolved, its leaders are not allowed to form another one for three years. Furthermore, while the right to bargaining is recognised, all collective agreements must be concluded within 30 days after the beginning of negotiations or be submitted for mediation, conciliation or arbitration.

The right to strike is seriously circumscribed by the fact all strikes must be preceded by a lengthy and cumbersome mediation/conciliation procedure, and a lawful strike can only be called as "a result of failed negotiations". Failure is classified as a deadlock "that is declared by both sides", which gives the employers unilateral power to stop a strike. Strikes are also banned in "enterprises that cater to the interest of the general public" and in "essential services", but the types of enterprises covered are not specified, leaving it to the government's discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: In July, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was re-elected by a wide margin. Although this created a situation to initiate significant reforms, nothing has changed. Powerful government and business figures continue to use criminal and civil defamation laws to intimidate journalists, human rights defenders, and other critics.

Legal strikes difficult in practice: Since the procedures for mediating a labour dispute are both excessively cumbersome and time consuming, they are often ignored by union leaders. Hence the government declares most strikes as illegal job actions, which results in mass dismissals of union officials and workers as well as the arrest and imprisonment of union leaders. Strikes have also been entirely prohibited in the public sector, in essential services, and at enterprises that serve the public interest.

Flagrant violations of worker benefits provided in labour law: Most companies in Indonesia flaunt the basic provisions of labour law with impunity. Even where unions have successfully negotiated collective bargaining agreements, employers will still ignore worker entitlements under labour law and/or blatantly repudiate the terms of the agreements. Indonesia's labour law fails to protect workers in practice because the law does not distinguish strike actions to enforce labour law or contract rights from strikes solely involving the economic interests of workers.

Flawed fundamentals: There are four main issues that undermine and frustrate effective union representation of workers and the proper exercise of workers' freedom of association. The first issue is the illegal and improper use of contract labour. Section 59 of the Manpower Act provides that contract labour is to be used only for work that is "temporary in nature", however many employers wilfully violate these provisions as a way of reducing labour costs and avoiding dialogue with union organisations. The second issue is that of statutorily imposed negotiation and dispute resolution processes that are flawed and undermine the ability of unions to engage in lawful strikes. The third issue is that of government officials turning a blind eye to companies that flagrantly violate labour laws. And, fourthly, government officials are more prone to side with employers than workers in interpreting, or indeed ignoring, labour law violations.

Child labour widespread: Hundreds of thousands of girls in Indonesia, some as young as 11, are employed as domestic workers. Many work long hours, with no days off, and are forbidden to leave the house where they work. In the worst cases, girls are physically, psychologically and sexually abused. Indonesia's labour law excludes all domestic workers from the basic labour rights afforded to most workers.

Employer retaliation for strike actions: On 16 April, 700 Federation of Indonesian Metalworkers Union (FSPMI) union workers at PT Toshiba Consumer Products Indonesia in East Jakarta Industrial Park went on strike after the company refused to implement the collective labour agreement (CBA) signed by the union and management. After the strike, the company sent a letter to all employees saying that those who took part in the strike action would be terminated, and later shut down production and stopped health insurance coverage to all strikers. On 5 May, police and 30 hired thugs attacked strikers outside the company gates. The company also dismissed 15 elected trade union leaders. On 22 August, FSPMI and Toshiba resolved the dispute with the signing of a CBA and an agreement to reinstate 697 workers, but not the 15 local union leaders.

On 10 March, laid-off workers from the manufacturing company PT Mulia Industrindo demonstrated at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry in South Jakarta. Mulia Industrindo dismissed about 500 workers without severance pay after they went on strike in February. On 9 June, about 1,700 workers from polyester and textile manufacturer PT Susila Indah Fiber Industries, in Tangerang, Banten, also went on strike after they failed to reach an agreement with the company's management over several issues, including union recognition and wages that were below the minimum salary. In addition, the company had suspended three workers for their involvement in labor protests in Jakarta on 1 May.

In February, FSPMI union workers at PT Toshiba Consumer Products Indonesia in East Jakarta Industrial Park went on strike after an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations. In response, the company dismissed 300 workers, and a FSMPI union officer was charged with destruction of property as the company claimed that the officer had damaged a company phone during the negotiations.

Rare justice for workers: In February, the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) reported that Fathoni Prawata, a local manager of electronic component manufacturer PT Kim Jim Pasuruan (KJI), had been sentenced to 18 months in prison in a court case brought by the Federation of Indonesian Metalworkers Union (FSPMI). FSPMI lodged the case after Prawata unfairly dismissed FSPMI members and refused to pay wages, bonuses and leave to workers who demonstrated during negotiations for a collective agreement. According to FSPMI President Said Iqbal, this is the first time Indonesian courts have found management official guilty of violating ILO Convention 98 and Indonesian Labour Law 21.

Union organisers detained and threatened: Federation of Indonesian Metalworkers Union (FSPMI) called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene to ensure the release of FSPMI organisers and shop stewards Ms. Evi Risiasari and Ms. Yuli Setianingsih, who had been imprisoned as a result of their union activities at PT Takita Manufacturing in Bakasi, Jakarta. The two union representatives had been fighting to secure permanent employment for employees at Takita where less than half of the workers have permanent jobs. On 3 March, they were arrested and remanded into detention on charges of falsifying medical expense claims. The International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) said that the charges were false and that the women signed "forced statements", admitting the charges only after being threatened with immediate dismissal by their employer.

Yellow union at Nestlé: On 13 July, the Nestlé Indonesia Panjang Workers Union SBNIP at Nestlé's Nescafé factory in Panjang sent a union delegation to Jakarta for rallies at the Nestlé head office and at the Department of Labour and Manpower (Labour Ministry), demanding support for wage negotiations. Nestlé has avoided dealing with SBNIP since 2007 by establishing a company-dominated union called FKBNI, which claims to represent the interests of Panjang Nescafé workers.

Union harassed by government: As the Kongres Aliansi Serikat Buruh Indonesia (Congress of the Indonesian Labour Union Alliance) (KASBI) prepared for its national day of action in Jakarta on 20 October, KASBI officials noted numerous instances of government harassment: (1) police removed 12 KASBI union officials from a train at Surabaya Pasar Turi Train Station and briefly detained them; (2) Karawang City Police Chief interrogated Heryanto, the coordinator of KASBI Karawang, about KASBI mobilisation plans; (3) police threatened workers gathering in KASBI Karawang secretariat not go to Jakarta; (4) police interrogated the leader of KASBI Bandung Raya in an attempt to get information about the workers' mobilisation plans; (5) police blocked a bus of workers from the KASBI Bandung Raya Secretariat to prevent it from going to Jakarta; (6) KASBI leaders in Jogjakarta reported police surveillance of their secretariat, and police interrogated KASBI members regarding their mobilisation plan to go to Jakarta; and (7) police blocked the bus of KASBI Banten members to prevent them from going to Jakarta. KASBI members who reached Jakarta for the demonstration on 20 October were met with similar actions of interrogation and surveillance. Police roughed up several KASBI members guarding demonstrators' motorcycles and damaged several motorcycles as well.

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