Thu, 18 Dec 2003

Employers, unions agree on new labor bill

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Employers and labor unions put their weight behind the newly endorsed bill on the settlement of industrial disputes, which they say gives legal certainty both to workers and employers and encourages harmonious industrial relations.

Secretary-general of the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI) Syukur Sarto told The Jakarta Post that the union had actively participated in informal meetings to discuss the bill, both with the House of Representatives and the manpower and transmigration ministry, and fully supported the new legislation.

"KSPSI fully accepts the new legislation because its substance in general is in line with our own draft proposed both to the House and the government," he said.

Syukur said only a few of the 75 labor unions registered with the government had opposed the law because it allows the government to intervene in handling industrial disputes.

"KSPSI supports the role the government will continue to play in the future, not only to help reach out-of-court settlements but also because of the corrupt judiciary system in the country. In accordance with the law, mediation is obligatory because Law No. 13/2003, which was enacted in March, requires the government to provide legal protection for workers, especially when they are in trouble," he said.

It would be easier for employers to buy a ruling in a court with a panel of only three judges as in the past than to buy a decision by the 15-member Central Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes (P4P), he added. A special court is to be set up to try labor disputes.

Many minor labor unions oppose the new legislation, which allows the government to intervene in labor disputes because, according to them, the government would take employers' sides as it did in the past while employers would be financially able to buy court decisions on labor.

Rustam Achsan, chairman of the Food, Leather and Textile Labor Union, said his union accepted the new legislation because it gave more room for workers to fight for their aspirations and to to win disputes with their employers.

Separately, Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) secretary-general Djimanto said Apindo appreciated the legislation because it was expected to give investors legal certainty when investing in the country.

"The new law stipulates quick and fair legal proceedings in seeking settlements to industrial disputes between employers and workers. Employers will no longer have to wait five years as they did in the past in dealing with disputes with their workers," he said.

Djimanto said, however, that most employers preferred to seek peaceful out-of-court solutions to disputes with workers.

"In dealing with industrial disputes, employers and workers can seek win-win, or even lose-lose, solutions to their industrial disputes, which neither both side will be able to do at the special court. But we cannot force workers to settle out of court and employers have to be ready to go to trial if workers insist," he said.

Meanwhile, Director General for Industrial Relations at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration Muzni Tambusai said that besides assuring fairer and quick settlements to industrial disputes, the new legislation was expected to encourage both employers and workers to work out a peaceful and promote harmonious industrial relations.

"The new legislation aims not to increase disputes between workers and employers nor encourage either side to attack the other, but to make each aware of their obligations and rights. Employers need legal certainty and a conducive climate in doing business while workers need better labor conditions to improve their welfare," he said.

Muzni explained that the new legislation not only replaced the present law on labor, which was considered no longer relevant to current conditions, but also to seek quick and fair solutions to industrial disputes and accommodate workers' rights.

"The law stipulates that industrial disputes have to be settled within 40 days through mediation, conciliation or arbitration and 50 days through the special court. Appeals must be ruled on by the Supreme Court within 30 days, and only dismissals and rights violations can go to the Supreme Court, while conflicting interests of workers and employers and disputes among labor unions within the same company must be settled through mediation or at the special court," he said.

He said that all agreements made through mediation, conciliation and arbitration and those made by the labor court and the Supreme Court would be binding and executable and the execution fees of cases worth up to Rp 150 million would be covered by the government.

Under the present law, decisions made by the P4P are not executable because they can be vetoed by the manpower and transmigration minister and the minister's veto can be filed at a state administrative court as stipulated by Law no. 5/1986 on state administrative courts.