Tue, 09 May 2000

Bomer and Apjati clash over ministerial decree

JAKARTA (JP): Manpower minister Bomer Pasaribu fought back on Monday against criticism of a 1999 ministerial decree that increased the minimum amount of capital labor export companies must have.

Bomer defended the decree issued by his predecessor Fahmi Idris in August last year, saying it was imperative for labor exporters to posses large amounts of capital because their businesses dealt with manpower.

"Labor supply companies can not treat workers as a commodity. Furniture can be dumped if it is not saleable but workers sent overseas do not deserve the same treatment," he said.

Bomer was responding to protests lodged by the Association of Labor Export Companies (Apjati) against the decree.

The decree stipulates a labor export company place Rp 750 million in assets and another Rp 250 million in bank deposits on behalf of the manpower minister for the protection of its workers abroad.

Association chairman Abdulla Umar told The Jakarta Post on Saturday none of 425 members of the association would comply with the decree because they judged it unable to protect workers.

Bomer, however, said he would likely revise the decree if the companies resisted it or refused to follow it.

"It was not me who signed the decree in August 1999. It remains open to amendments," he said. He added several labor exporters had bowed to the regulation.

The decree replaces the previous one issued in 1996 requiring labor exporters to have assets amounting to Rp 450 million. The aim of the law was to reduce the numbers of labor exporters and to improve legal protection and insurance guarantees for workers.

Abdulla expressed his disappointment with Bomer's response on Monday, saying it was evidence that the minister and Din Syamsuddin, the director general for labor placement, did not know much about the crucial problems facing the labor export industry.

"The decree was aimed at controlling the booming labor supplying companies. The ministry had just issued new licenses to 250 new companies over the last six months. This indicates the minister and the director general are not professional," he said, citing the matter has been reported to the President.

Abdulla said the decree was unfair because it treated small companies in the same way as larger ones. He said it would be better for the government to tighten its supervision of labor exporters' performances and the quality of workers sent overseas to ensure their protection.

He revealed the government collected more than Rp 70 billion annually from workers employed overseas but that the funds had never been used to assist troubled workers, including the hundreds of people stranded in Indonesian embassies in Middle Eastern countries.

Abdulla said the association would suggest the House of Representatives (DPR) pressed the government to revise the labor export policy.

He added the association would hold an extraordinary congress, scheduled for May 23 and May 24, to evaluate the labor export policy and the performance of labor exporters.

He said Malaysia, Taiwan and Middle Eastern countries were in need of around 600,000 foreign workers but Indonesia could not meet the demand because of the unfavorable business climate.

Indonesian needs a labor export policy that not only helps the government solve the unemployment problem, but increases its income from the sector, he said. (rms)