Indonesia, the largest island-nation of South-East Asia, has been witnessing a storm of mass uprise against the new reforms in labour law. In response to the newly introduced labour law by the Joko Widodo-led PDI-P government, protestors have taken to the streets yet again to exhibit their discontent with the new labour law. The ‘Omnibus’ jobs-creation bill, passed in Indonesian parliament on 5th October, infringes the sector-based minimum wage protocols, revokes the working hour and indulges the job outsourcing from Indonesia. Thus, Indonesia’s doors are being widened to the foreign direct investment with little if not zero regulations, amidst the country’s precarious economic situation.

Protestors claim that the new Omnibus law for job creation has been passed very quickly in the parliament and is only here to retract the rights of workers. That would significantly harm the environment with its clauses, making red taped zones available to the large-corporates now. The protest has eventually taken a violent form due to police atrocities, including the use of tear gas along with hitting and kicking the protestors, which resulted in the severe injury of more than 24 students.

This wrath has erupted from Jakarta and Bandung in the most populated Java Island. Later this outrage took Pan-Indonesian extension. The brutal atrocities that the police brought about led to the protestors throwing molotovs, stone-pelting and more to resist, although this resulted into a debate amongst the liberals in the country. With very few ways of expression of grievances made available to the workers, students and peasants, these violent protests almost seemed inevitable, especially in a country which has a long history of taking to street demonstration and voicing harsh and rightful opinions against the government. But this is not the first time in recent years that Indonesia has witnessed such demonstrations.

Indonesia is the land where students had taken to the streets along with workers to topple the CIA backed right-wing dictator Suharto back in 1998. Last year in 2019, with the new reforms which curbed the working of the anti-corruption commission in the country, one of the most reputed authoritative bodies with the records of prosecuting corporates, politicians and others related to corruption, the burning protests occupied the streets of Indonesia. These protests gained further momentum last year with the infringement of the government in privacy through several reforms in clauses, including making the study of Marxist-Leninist ideology a crime by law.

It is, although, not very surprising that the chamber of commerce and the industrial sector both have embraced the law with applauses, while the protestors are in a struggle against the government to discard it. They claim that this will create more jobs in the country and lead it out of the economic crisis that it is sinking in. The government has stated that the law was necessary to bring in new investment and get rid of several prolonged  procedures of the permit for businesses to create more jobs in the country. But the changes that are present within the law sing a completely different song.  It is quite apparent that the law is only welcomed by all who profit from it and the so-called ‘centre-left’ PDI-P government is seeming concerned for the corporates, more than the people of the nation, as said by the protestors with resentment.

The working hour and minimum wage patterns have rampantly been attacked, not only in Indonesia but also throughout a significant part of the globe. In the current pandemic scenario, governments of several numbers of nations have been bringing unprecedented cuts in labour laws and rights. This ongoing protests of Jakarta, Medan, and Bandung have further received fuel through the absolute inattentive behaviour of the government in receiving public opinions. The Widodo-government has introduced the Omnibus law to bring in several reforms in the labour law and the social security law, such as:

  • The law eliminates multiple regulations on outsourcing of jobs.
  • Businesses are now only required to file an environmental analysis, if and when their projects regard to high-risk ones.
  • Businesses now only require to provide one day leave per week instead of two with the maximum overtime limited to 4 hours a day and 18 hours a week.
  • It also abolishes the sector-based minimum wage and allows regional governors to set minimums in the matter.
  • Previously, the severance pay was for a maximum period of 32 months for a worker. But now, through the omnibus law, it has been reduced to 19 months of salary. The government would pay for another six months for the newly unemployed person. That is still a 7-month deduction and use of public money to do so.

The past week has seen street demonstrations and labour strikes that took a violent form later on, due to the least of attention paid by the government to the public. The police already have taken more than six hundred people in custody, as per the reports. They heavy-handedly tried to control the situation, which has only worsened the scenario in the country. Thirty-two trade unions, along with the KSPI (Confederation of Indonesian Worker’s Union) called for a strike for the third day on Thursday last week. Protestors are demanding the government to repeal the law, while supporters are calling for calm and peace in the country with only oratory remarks of consolation without taking any actions that truly work towards revoking the clauses that affect workers and the environment.

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