Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Employers hail new labor bill, unions divided

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An employers association hailed on Monday the planned endorsement of the labor bill, but trade unions remained divided over the draft.

Djimanto of the Indonesian Employers Association said the final draft of the bill accommodated both employers and trade unions.

"Basically we welcome the new labor protection and development bill. It not only orders us to do many things but also regulates workers," Djimanto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The House of Representatives (DPR) is expected to endorse the long-awaited bill on Tuesday after both employers and workers reached agreement on about 60 contentious issues.

The House Special Committee settled over the weekend issues pertaining to, among others, temporary workers, sabbatical leave, paid leave for women workers who have miscarried, strikes and lock outs, and dismissals.

Djimanto, however, said that employers still opposed the requirement they give a maximum severance and service pay to the worker equal to 40 times their monthly salary.

"It is not competitive compared to China which only requires employers to provide severance and service payments equal to one times the salary or Vietnam with five times the salary," he said.

Trade unions, on the other hand, gave conflicting reactions to the bill.

The Federation of All Indonesian Labor Union (FSPSI) and Reform SPSI are among those who immediately accepted the endorsement of the bill.

Arif Sujito of FSPSI said many articles such as workers still being paid during strikes, compensation for dismissed workers, sabbatical leave, and legal protection of temporary workers were good enough to accommodate workers' interests.

But Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) head Rekson Silaban urged the House to delay the endorsement of the bill for one week to allow all unions to scrutinize it.

"We are worried that the latest bill does not entirely accept the understanding between labor unions and employers.

"So why does the House not hold a hearing with us for another week to see whether we accept it or not?" he asked.

Dita Indah Sari of the National Front of the Indonesian Labor Struggle (FNPBI) rejected the bill, saying it and 40 other labor unions planned to demonstrate in front of the House compound on Tuesday.

"The bill has reduced workers' rights," she said.

She said, for example, the latest bill allowed children to work, neglecting basic laws banning children from doing so.

Compensation schemes paid to workers who resign voluntarily or are dismissed for committing crimes were lower than those under the current regulations, she said.

She said the deliberation of the bill was not transparent enough and therefore many trade unions had agreed to reject the bill.