By Harry Glass
Workers vowed to keep up the fight after the Indonesian government passed new anti-union laws. The anti-union laws are part of the government's drive to roll back gains made by unions since the fall of Suharto, and for an IMF-inspired flexible labour market.
But unions like the National Front for the Struggle of Indonesian Workers (FNPBI) said they would not give in. FNPBI chair Dita Sari told workers at a rally outside the presidential palace in Jakarta to defy the law. "Those accepting the law are those who bow to the regime! Those accepting the law are those who bow to international capitalists!" she told thousands of workers.
The news laws force unions to take their disputes to a central industrial court, which will be a "bipartite forum" including employers' representatives. This is designed to blunt the effectiveness of strike action by forcing unions into a machinery of arbitration.
The new laws also allow firms to sack workers without first seeking permission from the government, as was previously the case. Other masures include the legalisation of outsourcing and the removal of a woman's right to time off during menstruation or following a miscarriage.
Altogether the legislation strengthens the hand of employers, allowing them to drive down wages and undermine conditions - and
blunt the drive of unions to organise more workers.
But workers are not taking the threat lying down. As well as big demonstrations in Jakarta, thousands of workers rallied in other cites, such as Bandung and Semarang. Dita Sari said the fight was not over yet. "It depends on how much pressure we can apply. Workers have to build a national movement in order to win the struggle," she said.
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