The rights of outsourced domestic workers will be better protected and the use of foreign workers more closely scrutinized in the wake of last weekâ€™s riots at PT Drydocks World Grahaâ€™s facility in Batam, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar has promised.
Decrees will be revised to increase the surveillance of working conditions, ensure payment of salaries and social-security benefits, monitor outsourced workersâ€™ contracts and create a clearer understanding of what kind of work can be outsourced, he said late on Thursday.
â€śOnce completed, the revised law will be applied to all industries across the nation,â€ť Muhaimin said, adding that local and regional agencies would be responsible for monitoring the new rules rather than the central government. He said his ministry would also tighten its monitoring of foreign workers so they would not â€śdisrupt local workers,â€ť although there was no intention of limiting the number of foreign workers in Indonesia.
Ministry data show there were 59,577 foreign workers in Indonesia in 2009, down 23.6 percent from 2008 due to the global financial crisis and the rising quality of local labor.
Outsourced workers are Indonesians hired by companies that supply them to other firms to perform certain tasks. They are usually on short-term contracts and are paid a daily wage.
Muhaimin said that under the current law, companies could not outsource core tasks but only such peripheral work as cleaning and security.
Timbul Siregar, chairman of the Indonesian Workers Association (OPSI), was skeptical about the ministryâ€™s plan.
â€śSo far, there hasnâ€™t been any effort to increase the quality and quantity of monitoring officials, and the monitoring process should be carried out by central government officials instead of regional ones.â€ť
Timbul said the biggest question mark around the plan was whether Muhaimin would be able to persuade the Home Affairs Department to take responsibility for the workers at a regional level.
He said the government should crack down on specialist outsourcing companies.
â€śTheyâ€™re the ones causing the problem by cutting the salaries given by the companies for their own advantage. A criminal penalty should be included in the revision of the law,â€ť he said.
Foreign workers should, ideally, work in partnership with local employees and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology to the Indonesian work force, Timbul said.
â€śHowever, the transfer process doesnâ€™t seem to be working very well. Foreign investors have the tendency to trust the abilities of foreign workers rather than domestic ones. This hampers the chance for Indonesians to compete,â€ť he said.
Foreign workers are also easier to hire and fire, Timbul said.
Djimanto, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), said he approved of the ministryâ€™s plan to monitor foreign workers more closely.
But he also called on Indonesian employees to improve themselves so they could better compete for jobs.
â€śMost Indonesian workers still donâ€™t have a certificate of their professional competence. This will make it hard for them to compete with professional foreign workers,â€ť Djimanto said.
He also warned that tightening the work-permit approval process for foreign workers could lead to a backlash.
â€śIn this era of free trade, we should be wary that the protection we impose for our country can be countered with the same action for our workers trying to work abroad.â€ť