Indonesian trade unions call for bigger mobilization against Omnibus law

The Confederation of Indonesia Trade Union has called for massive protests in November if president Joko Widodo approves the Omnibus job creation law which weakens labor and environmental protection provisions

October 26, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Indonesia Omnibus protests
A joint protest of the Confederation of Indonesia Trade Union (KSPI) and the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers Unions (FSPMI) outside the national parliament building. (Photo: IndustriALL)

On October 24, Saturday, the Confederation of Indonesia Trade Union (KSPI) declared that presidential assent to the controversial ‘Omnibus’ job creation law will be met with massive nationwide protests. It is expected that president Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, will give his assent to the law in the coming days. Faced with this possibility, trade unions in Indonesia are planning for future protests and a legal battle if necessary. 

KSPI’s declaration came a day after representatives of the president’s office stated that the review of the law has been completed and the assent is expected to be given by October 28. Widodo’s government has advocated for and drafted the sweeping Omnibus law, claiming that it will give rise to nine millions jobs. The law amends and replaces dozens of federal protections to environment and labor rights.

In a public statement, KSPI chairman Said Iqbal said that the 800,000-member strong trade union confederation will stage protests beginning from November 9, along with other trade unions, until the law is repealed. He added that the union is still open for a dialogue with the government. “It is the exploitation of labour that we’re against… We are ready for dialogue, even ready for a debate if necessary in an open, public hearing,” he said.

The president has a 30-day time limit to give assent to the bill, which was passed by the People’s Representative Council (DPR), the lower house of the Indonesian national legislature, with little deliberation on October 5. While protests are expected to begin soon, the KSPI is also planning to petition for a judicial review of the bill at the Constitutional Court.

“We ask the Constitutional Court judges to use their conscience by considering the unwritten constitution of the widespread aspirations of the people and reject the omnibus law,” Iqbal said. He also said that future demonstrations will focus more on the State Palace, housing the State Secretariat or the presidential office, and the Constitutional Court.

The union will also seek to pressure the two opposition political parties in the DPR that have opposed the bill, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), to push for a legislative review of the law.

A legislative review, much like a judicial review, empowers the national legislature to review, amend, or strike down part or the whole of a legislation once it has been passed. According to Jakarta Post, the two parties seem less inclined to follow that route to challenge the law, considering that it has often ended up being a tedious and long-drawn process.

Sporadic protests against the omnibus law have been ongoing ever since the bill was introduced in February. Massive protests broke out after the bill was carried through the DPR in a controversial manner with little debate or deliberation earlier this month. The government responded to the protests with repression, with nearly 6,000 arrested so far, including journalists, students and activists. Several cases of intimidation of journalists have also been reported.