Mon, 17 Apr 2000

15,000 workers sent abroad uninsured

JAKARTA (JP): A labor observer questioned the fate of at least 15,000 workers who have been sent abroad over the past month without insurance coverage.

Halomoan Hutapea said the exodus of uninsured workers followed the government's decision to suspend temporarily the operation of nine insurance consortia appointed to provide insurance protection for workers overseas.

"They will be facing a tragic fate if they quit their job, are rejected by their prospective employers or dismissed by their employers," he said in a press conference here yesterday.

The instruction for the temporary suspension which was issued by Director General for Labor Placement Din Syamsuddin has yet to be revoked, he said. Consequently, the number of workers who were sent without insurance protection will double by the end of this month.

Din issued the instruction following the absence of the consortia's representatives abroad as required by the 1996 ministerial decree to provide legal and insurance protection for troubled workers. Thousands of workers are still being stranded in Indonesian Embassies and consulates in Middle East countries after developing troubles with their employers.

He blamed the government for troubles many Indonesian workers were facing abroad, saying the government was not professional in tackling the labor export sector.

Halomoan called on the House of Representatives to closely monitor the labor export and make a better law to develop labor export since it was a strategic sector to help cope with the high unemployment.

Abdullah Umar, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Labor Supplying Companies (Apjati) said labor export companies would decline to provide legal protection and pay insurance claims for troubled workers abroad because according to the ministerial decree, troubled workers were handled by the insurance consortia.

"It is not our business. Ours is to send workers while the legal protection and insurance program should be handled by the consortia and the government," he said.

Binsar H. Sitohang, the consortia's coordinator, criticized Din's instruction as unpopular, saying the government should be responsible for troubles and disputes the 15,000 workers will be facing.

"We will be responsible for workers having paid their insurance premiums to 26 insurance companies grouped in the nine consortia," he said.

He conceded that the 26 insurance companies failed to have branch offices overseas but said the instruction could have a negative impact for workers.

"It is the director general's authority to impose harsh sanctions but he should not issue such an instruction that could effect our workers," he said.

He said the consortia have agreed to establish their joint branches in all countries where Indonesian workers were employed.

According to the ministerial decree, workers participating in the insurance program are obliged to pay between Rp 120,000 and Rp 160,000 each during their three-year employment overseas. Consortia are required to provide legal protection for troubled workers, buy tickets and provide severance pay to laid-off workers and pay Rp 10 million in compensation for those who die during their employment.

For efficiency, the joint branches will give one-roof service for troubled workers, he said.

Din was not available for comments on Saturday. (rms)