Indonesian workers stage protests against new labour laws

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Indonesian workers have launched protests in several cities to oppose the passage of a controversial new jobs law that the govt says is significant to draw in investment but critics deem too pro-business.

Parliament passed into law President Joko Widodo’s “omnibus” Job Creation bill late on Monday, revising quite 70 existing laws to hurry up economic reform and improve the investment climate in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Still, parliament voted on the bill before expected and before a national strike thanks to start on Tuesday that unions expect to involve two million workers.

“The law will certainly affect the status of our employment,” Anwar Sanusi, a member of the FSPMI union within the city of Tangerang west of Jakarta, said by telephone.

Sanusi said the bill would mean outsourced workers and contracted workers remain in situ for all times , adding that 400 workers on the morning shift had stopped working.

The new law removes the three-year maximum duration of contracts and cuts severance benefits, provisions the govt said were intended to market formal hiring.

‘Ruinous false choice’

Critics also said the move reduces environmental protections.

Environmental campaign group Mighty Earth said: “Elements of the new law will worsen deforestation and land rights abuses and reverse recent successes in reducing forest loss.”

“The Indonesian parliament made a ruinous false choice between environmental sustainability and economic process by effectively legitimising uncontrolled deforestation as an engine for a so-called pro-investment job creation policy,” Phelim Kine, senior campaigns director with Mighty Earth said during a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

Nining Elitos, chairwoman of labour group KASBI, said by text message that “tens of thousands of individuals had stood ahead of factories in many places”.

Her claim couldn’t immediately be verified and it had been unclear if workers would be ready to protest ahead of the parliament building in Jakarta as planned, as police sought to dam protesters on the grounds of containing the coronavirus. Usman Hamid of Amnesty International Indonesia said this “catastrophic law … will harm workers’ wallets, job security and their human rights as an entire .”

But Trimegah Securities economist Fakhrul Fulvian said the passage of the bill helped local markets with Jakarta’s main stock market index up the maximum amount as 1.31 percent and therefore the rupiah by the maximum amount as 1.28 percent against the US dollar.

He said banks and export-oriented industries should benefit, while consumer and retail sectors could also be pressured as workers may increase savings to catch up on changes in labour rules.

Source: aljazeera

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