Bayu Marhaenjati & Dessy Sagita
Hundreds of labor union members demonstrated in front on the House of Representatives’ building on Tuesday, demanding that the controversial bills on mass organizations and national security be dropped from the legislature’s docket.
“We demand the mass organizations and national security bills to be dropped because the existence of both regulations would put us, the laborers, in a very difficult position, just like in the New Order era,” said Baris Silitonga, the demonstration’s coordinator.
Baris said the Wednesday protest was just a “warm-up” before a much bigger demonstration planned for the end of the month, in which thousands of protesters were expected to rally.
Said Iqbal, president of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Union (KSPI), said a mass strike was also being considered if the government and the House ignored the protesters’ demands.
A nationwide strike in October 2012, protesting the practice of outsourcing, involved more than five million workers and crippled production at 1,000 factories, causing an estimated Rp 1 trillion ($103 million) in losses.
Said said the union would plan an even bigger strike this year if the House pushed ahead with the legislation.
Said said the bill on mass organizations threatened democracy and citizens’ freedom to be involved in an organization or to express an opinion.
He said the bill distinguished between two kinds of mass organizations: those with a legal body and those without. The bill would classify workers unions as mass organizations without a legal body, obliging them to register for the “legal body” status with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“This bill makes it impossible for a workers union to fight for workers’ rights and welfare, as well as to organize a mass strike, which has been guaranteed in our Constitution,” he said.
Said said that for the May Day labor commemoration on May 1, the union would mobilize 500,000 protesters from the Greater Jakarta area to demand that the bills be dropped.