Mon, 24 Feb 2003

House settles issue on workers' dismissal in labor bill

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives has finally settled the issue of dismissal, the most controversial issue in the bill on workers' protection, paving the way for its endorsement on Tuesday.

Rekso Ageng Herman, a member of the House' special committee deliberating the bill, told The Jakarta Post here on Sunday both commission members and the government had agreed not to pay compensation for workers entering retirement and for those who were dismissed for committing crimes.

"With the completion of the deliberation of contentious issues, our commission will bring the bill to the House's plenary session for endorsement on Tuesday," he said.

Rekso explained that employers had no obligation to pay severance payment nor payment according to the length of service of an employee to workers who were dismissed for committing a crime. He said it was not appropriate to pay compensation for those who through their very actions had tarnished the company's image and were serving a prison sentence.

Regarding workers who resigned voluntarily, Rekso said as with workers dismissed for committing crimes, both resigning and retiring workers only had the right to receive what was due to them during their period of employment.

The agreement on the controversial issue ended employers' long-standing objection to Ministerial Decree No. 150/2000 requiring compensation for retiring workers and those dismissed for committing crimes.

Previously, the special committee and the government represented by manpower minister Jacob Nuwa Wea, agreed to define the type of work that could be handed over to contractual workers, sabbatical leave, lockout and 18-months leave for women who miscarry. The bill on labor protection had more than 60 contentious issues that were settled following a marathon discussion that involved both labor unions and employers in Dec. 2002 and Jan. 2003.

This bill and the other one on the settlement of labor disputes were reviewed after being stalled following strong protests both from labor unions and employers.

Meanwhile, numerous minor labor unions lambasted larger labor unions supporting the two bills as hundreds of workers and activists demonstrated at Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Sunday to oppose the two bills.

But, Muhammad Rodja, secretary-general of the reformed All- Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI), hailed the special committee's agreement, saying it would give certainty both to workers and employers on industrial relations and settlement of labor disputes.

Rekso said that despite the minor unions' protest, the House would endorse the long-awaited bills on Tuesday.

The two bills will replace Law. 22/1957 on settlement of labor disputes and Law No. 25/1997 on the workforce which was made during the New Order era. The latter law was rejected by workers in the reform era, because, in their view it negated workers' fundamental rights.