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In lead up to IWD workers seek to build alternative trade union, labour unity

SEDAR - March 4, 2018

Bekasi – The Populist Democratic Trade Union (Serikat Buruh Demokratik Kerakyatan, SEDAR) held a mass meeting attended by more than 400 members on Sunday March 4. The meeting was held to prepare for International Women's Day (IWD) which falls on March 8.

Working conditions for women are still of great concern. Not just because they have yet to gain basic maternity rights such as unconditional menstrual leave, maternity leave and breastfeeding rooms at work, but because women workers, like their male compatriots, are victims of a flexible labour system.

Contract labour, outsourcing and apprenticeships make it difficult for women workers to obtain employment security. Yet these days, many women workers have become the family breadwinner.

The rampant use of apprenticeships, which is legitimised under Labour Ministry Regulation Number 36/2016 on the Organisation of Domestic Apprenticeships and locally through the Bekasi Regency Regulation Number 4/2016 on Labour, is evidence that national and governments alike tend to side with capital rather than workers.

Apprenticeships should be a mechanism to gain experience and training, but employers use them instead as a form of outsourced labour to reap huge profits.

In addition to this, the mass meeting also highlighted government plans to revise the 2003 Labour Law. The revisions being proposed will reduce and even abolish severance pay making it even easier for companies to arbitrarily sack workers.

The attacks against workers' rights have continued since the 2015 government regulation on setting the minimum wage – which ties annual wage rises to inflation and productivity – and has resulted in a decline in real wages and sectoral wage uncertainty.

Di Purwakarta regency, West Java, the Regency Sectoral Minimum Wage (UMSK) is no longer set by the wage council but is instead set through bipartite negotiations between workers and employers. The consequence of this is that workers have to negotiate directly with employers in their individual factories.

In order to address these problems, workers must fight for their rights.

First, though a struggle against employers in factories to win normative rights and Joint Labour Agreements (PKB) which accommodate workers' rights.

Second, fighting to demand that the state improve workers' welfare and reform regulations that harm workers.

What is needed is a trade union with the concept of alternative organisation which raises workers' consciousness so that they are informed, courageous, morally clean and politically honest.

The trade unions that will succeed in this are ones that are capable of actively involving their members in trade union activities: members that actively pay union dues, have a sense of solidarity and a commitment to fight.

Trade union activities should include consolidation, actions and supervision, education and training.

Building a sense of solidarity means building unity between trade unions with a commitment to fight. That is why SEDAR is working hard to towards unity with the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI), the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI), the National Trade Union Confederation (KSN), the National Labour Movement Centre (SGBN) and other people's movement organisations.

The test for this unity will be in joint actions on IWD and the People's Movement Conference in mid-April and on May Day.

Mobilisations on IWD should not just articulate the interests of women workers, but also test joint mobilisations to raise the atmosphere of struggle.

Victory can be achieved by working to fulfill the requirements to become an alternative trade union with a progressive consciousness.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Jelang IWD Rapat Akbar SEDAR Matangkan Konsep Serikat Buruh Alternatif.]

Source: http://fsedar.org/jelang-iwd-rapat-akbar-sedar-matangkan-konsep-serikat-buruh-alternatif/.

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