Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Indonesia sees fewer labor strikes in last six months

JAKARTA (JP): The number of labor strikes has fallen drastically after peaking in January, Minister of Manpower Abdul Latief announced yesterday.

Indonesia saw a total of 99 strikes in January, 75 in February, 72 in March, 20 in April, 20 in May, 17 in June and 10 last month, Latief told reporters yesterday after briefing President Soeharto about the current manpower situation.

He cited the trend as an encouraging sign that industrial relations are improving in Indonesia.

He said the majority of companies in Indonesia have now complied with manpower rules, including enforcement of the minimum wage regulations.

The few recent labor strikes no longer centered on demands to comply with the rules as these had been met, he said.

Workers are now taking action to press for more than the "normatives", he said. They are now seeking improvement in holiday policies, transportation allowances, recreation facilities and other matters, he added.

The number of labor strikes soared in January and February when the government hiked the minimum wages in the Jakarta and West Java areas, two of the country's major industrial centers.

Workers went on strike to press that the companies comply with the minimum wage regulations. Most subsequently relented when the government threatened to prosecute those who continued to violate labor regulations.

The minimum wages in most other provinces were increased in April. The remaining nine provinces, including North Sumatra, saw theirs raised as of Aug. 1.

Latief said that 99 percent of all industrial companies in Indonesia have now complied with the minimum wage regulations.

"We'd like to express our gratitude to the employers," said Latief, himself a successful businessman before he was recruited for the cabinet by President Soeharto in March last year.

The minister admitted that the government is still far from achieving its objectives.

Next target

The next target is to encourage more and more companies to establish collective labor agreements with their workers. These pacts regulate the rights and obligations of workers and employers and are seen as effective tools in preventing industrial disputes and guaranteeing industrial harmony.

Latief said only 20 percent of companies that employ more than 100 workers have established collective labor agreements. The government is aiming to bring this to at least 75 percent before the turn of the century. "We have to work hard to encourage more collective labor agreements," he conceded.

Asked about the fate of the trade privileges from the United States which are currently under review pending an improvement in the labor situation in Indonesia, Latief said Indonesia had taken the necessary steps.

"Even the U.S. said the steps we've taken were extraordinary. But the decision is theirs to make, not ours."

Washington is expected to announce its decision on whether or not to extend the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to Indonesia some time this month.

Last year, the U.S. threatened to revoke the GSP unless Indonesia improved the conditions of its workers. In February it decided to extend the review period until Aug. 15.

Officials here expect a favorable ruling when the decision is made, citing the improvements Indonesia has made and also the increasing bilateral trade and economic ties between Indonesia and the United States. (emb)