|Issue No 41||26 November 1999|
Letters to the Editor
Invitation to Visit Indonesia for May Day 2000
The Indonesian National Front for Labor Struggle (FNPBI) is a relatively new trade union federation. It includes a range of local worker organizations based in nine cities across Indonesia which have a major manufacturing sector.
The FNPBI was initiated in 1998 after the establishment of KOBAR in Jakarta, DBSU in North Sumatra, SBI in West Java, PPBS in Solo, PBS in Semarang, PPBS in Surabaya (East Java), PPBB in South-Eastern Sulawesi, SPBM in South Sulawesi, PPB-Sultra in North Sulawesi and APSM in Malang (East Java). Together, we are committed to work at the grass roots to improve working people's conditions. We are also part of the democracy movement.
The fact that the FNPBI is regionally based means we can play a major role in organising the labour movement. In this era of increasingly globalized capital, cooperation between worker organisations both here and internationally can only be of benefit to all workers.
At our founding conference, in May 1999, we launched a series of national campaigns including for:
1. 100% wage rise
The minimum wage only covers 60% of the cost of living (about A$2 a day). The last increase of 16% was supposed to cover all workers' needs. Of course, it didn't. Last year, our members in the PT Tyfountex Indonesia (which produces Levis jeans) were laid off because they were planning to hold a month-long strike for a wage rise. The FNPBI also believes that workers should also be able to enjoy a social life outside of work hours, and that their wages should cover this.
2. Lowering of prices
Since the economic crisis hit, prices have doubled. Having signed on to the IMF prescription for economic ``reform'', the government has cut all subsidies, forcing people to pay more for their basic necessities.
3. End all sackings
The economic crisis has forced many companies to close, especially those in the manufacturing sector. There are limited opportunities for semi-skilled workers and most workers have no choice but to seek unskilled work in factories. Workers should not be made to pay for the economic mismanagement of companies.
4. 32-hour week with no loss in pay
Companies wanting to produce more goods should employ more workers. Alternatively, if companies want to maintain the same number of workers, they should be paid overtime. A 32-hour week would also address the need for workers to have some social time at their disposal.
5. End contract labour
Many employers are using the economic crisis to hire and fire workers. The contract system and the fact that workers do not have a strong bargaining position allows companies to do this. Contract labour also allows companies to avoid giving workers their basic rights.
6. Freedom of association
Even though the Indonesian government has enacted many labour laws, including freedom of association, none are really pro-worker. It is still difficult for workers to set up independent unions, even at the plant level. Workers have difficulty registering unions, and in many cases they are still being forced to join a union which is not of their choice.
7. Heavy penalties for offending employers
Some employers manage to avoid being penalised for breaking the laws, instead making workers pay. For instance, many employers have not passed on the 16% wage rise, nor agreed to the freedom of association law.
8. Abolish the dual function of the Indonesian National Army and police (TNI/Polri)
For economic growth, political stability is required. The military still has the power to take part in labour disputes, including in the process of collective bargaining and in strikes, but always to protect employers' economic interests.
9. End violence and oppression in Aceh
Instead of sending material aid to the people of Aceh, Jakarta has been increasing the numbers of troops there. The government calls Aceh a ``Military Operation Area (DOM)''. This is also where the ``dual function'' of TNI/Polri is very visible.
As part of the democracy movement, the FNPBI believes that workers should support an end to all violence and oppression.
The FNPBI is not affiliated to any organisation, either sectorally or regionally. However we are keen to work with all organisations which are also working to improve workers' conditions. To this end, the FNPBI is affiliated to FSU (Solidarity Unions Forum) which also includes the SBSI (Indonesian Prosperity Unions), Sarbumusi (Indonesian Islamic Unions) , PPMI (Indonesian Islamic Workers Association), Fokuba (Banking and Finance Workers Union) and SPSI-Reformasi (the break-way group from the All Indonesian Trade Unions).
We also work with organisations which help create opportunities for the FNPBI to apply its program on the ground. One such organisation is SIGTUR (Southern Initiative on Globalisation Trade Union Rights) which recently gave the FNPBI the opportunity to present a report on the Indonesian trade union movement at its recent conference hosted by COSATU in South Africa.
FNPBI is in the process of collaborating with the ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unionsspell out) and the FNV (spell out) in the Netherlands.
In August, following my release from jail (for the ``crime'' of organising workers), I was able to tour Australia at the invitation Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET). Together with the FNPBI's international officer Romawaty Sinaga, we were able to meet with many trade unions and officials. I also had the opportunity to talk to tens of thousands of rank-and-file unionists when I was invited to speak on the official platform at three mass rallies organised by the ACTU against Peter Reith's new industrial relations laws.
The FNPBI is keen to establish closer links with Australian trade unions, and the ASIET-sponsored tour was a first important step in this process. We would like to initiate the next step and invite you to visit Indonesia to learn more about the challenges facing trade unionists here.
Together with ASIET, we invite you to participate in May Day 2000. The exposure tour, which would last about 10-12 days, is being coordinated by ASIET at the Australian end together with ourselves. We envisage that the costs would be around A$1800 which would include airfares and hotel accommodation.
We would seek to provide you with an intensive exposure experience, which would include participating in May Day rallies, meeting a range of trade unionists in a variety of work places, and attending some discussions and meetings, both with rank-and-file workers and FNPBI officials. We also envisage that you could participate in some of the monthly educationals and training we provide for workers. We are also talking to the ICFTU about other unions joining the exposure tour.
To find out more about the May Day 2000 tour, I urge you to contact your local ASIET committee.
Looking forward to meeting you in Indonesia,
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