Workers protest Indonesia's labour law in May Day rallies

01 May, 2021
Workers protest Indonesia's labour law in May Day rallies
Workers in Indonesia marked international labour day on Saturday (May 1) with drastically less attended marches because of COVID-19 restrictions but thousands still vented their anger at a fresh law they state harms their rights and welfare.

About 50,000 employees from 3,000 companies and factories were expected to be a part of traditional May Day marches in 200 cities and districts in Southeast Asia's major economy, said Said Iqbal, the president of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions.

However, most rallies are held outside factories or company compounds with strict health protocols, Iqbal said.

Authorities in the administrative centre, Jakarta, the epicenter of the national epidemic, have warned labor groups to stick to social distancing and other measures, that will drastically reduce crowds, said Jakarta Police spokesperson Yusri Yunus.

“We will strictly do something against those that violate health protocols through the May Day mass rally,” Yunus said, adding that a lot more than 6,300 police personnel have already been deployed to secure the capital.

Enraged over the brand new Job Creation Law, several hundred personnel gathered close to the national monument, waving colourful flags of labour groups and banners with demands. Others laid tomb effigies on the street to symbolise their hopeless and uncertain future beneath the new law.

“THE WORK Creation Law has incredibly buried our hope of a better future,” said Riden Hatam Aziz, among the organisers.

They later marched to the Constitutional Court and near to the presidential palace compound to demand the repeal of the legislation.

The demonstrators say regulations will hurt personnel by reducing severance pay, removing restrictions on manual labour by foreign workers, increasing the application of outsourcing, and converting monthly salaries to hourly wages.

President Joko Widodo signed regulations in November despite days of protests in lots of Indonesian cities that turned violent weeks earlier.

The act amended 77 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by Widodo’s administration to attract more investment.

The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions and a large number of other organisations have filed a legal challenge against the Job Creation Law with the Constitutional Court.

“The difficult situation could bring about more strikes and protests this season,” Iqbal said.

Television reports showed hundreds of workers rallying in a number of other cities, including Makassar. They shouted demands for a raise in minimum wage and relaxed outsourcing rules.