Indonesian protesters push repeal of Job Creation Law

Members of Indonesian trade unions protest against the government’s proposed labor reforms in a controversial ‘jobs creation’ bill in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 October 2020

Indonesian protesters push repeal of Job Creation Law

  • Lawmakers say move will woo investors; experts argue it will trigger job insecurity, curtail workers’ rights

JAKARTA: Angry Indonesian activists took to the streets on Tuesday, a day after parliament rushed to pass into law the controversial Omnibus bill on job creation, which government officials say will lure more investments to the country, but protestors argue will promote a “contemporary form of slavery.”

“Both the House of Representatives and the government have lost their conscience and have not taken into account the fate of the people by passing the bill,” Nining Elitos, chairwoman of Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) Confederation, told Arab News.

Other activists slammed the Job Creation Law (JCL), reasoning that it would trigger job insecurity and deny workers their rights as guaranteed under the 2003 Manpower Law. 

For months, trade unions have raised concerns that the new regulation will remove an obligation for employers to pay a severance package to employees who had been laid off and would enable companies to extend working contracts indefinitely, compared to a maximum of two annual extensions as per the previous law.

“KASBI members and other unions under the Gebrak coalition will continue to protest against the law,” Elitos said. 

Meanwhile, Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Chairwoman Asfinawati told Arab News that the NGO and other civil society organizations were driving a motion of no confidence against parliament to reject the new legislation.

“We are taking a precedent set following the passing of Law No. 25 in 1997 on manpower. The law has never been effectively implemented due to a wide-scale public repudiation,” Asfinawati said on Tuesday.

After years of rejection by workers and employers, the 1997 law was eventually revoked in 2002 and replaced with the 2003 Manpower Law. 

While admitting that the movement may not be successful, Asfinawati said that activists would continue to express their discontent against the JCL, which leaned toward a “contemporary form of slavery.” 

“A judicial review to challenge the law with the Constitutional Court is an eventuality, but rights groups are in no rush to do so,” she added.

Demonstrators from Tangerang, Banten and Bekasi, West Java, were prevented from entering the capital Jakarta by police on Monday.

However, another Gebrak activist, Ilhamsyah, told Arab News on Tuesday that protests had broken out in several areas across the country, including in Indonesia’s busiest port, Tanjung Priok, in North Jakarta, and Batam, Riau Islands — a free-trade zone located an hour away on a boat from Singapore. 

“The rallies will continue until Thursday,” Ilhamsyah added. 

The JCL, which amends parts of 79 existing laws, including the Labor Law, was ratified three days ahead of schedule with Achmad Baidowi, deputy chairman of the House’s legislative body. 

He justified the abrupt change of plan due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within the House of Representatives.

“We agreed that as the spread of COVID-19 in the parliament is accelerating, we must push forward the closing of current hearing sessions,” Baidowi told reporters in Jakarta.

During Monday’s meeting, Deputy Speaker Azis Syamsuddin said that 18 House lawmakers, staff and employees had contracted the disease, adding to the total of 307,120 cases and 11,253 deaths reported from across the country.

The JCL is one of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s key priorities in his second and final term, with Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto saying on Monday that it would strengthen protection of workers and improve investment opportunities. 

He added that it provides the legal basis for the government to increase its “contribution to the national employment insurance program and take measures to streamline business licensing procedures.”

Economists, however, are not so convinced.

Some expressed hesitation that the JCL is simply the panacea that the government needs to woo investors, particularly amid the pandemic. 

“Tackling the pandemic should be the focus now…but the government was busy pushing for ratification of the Omnibus law. In the meantime, the pandemic has diminished Indonesia’s attractiveness as it reduced public purchasing power and disrupted mobility and production capacity,” Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara, a researcher with the think tank Institute for Development of Economics and Finance, told Arab News on Tuesday.

He added that investors’ confidence in Indonesia is “currently very low” due to the government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ratification of the law may already backfire and further bring down investors’ confidence as it leads to new uncertainties. It is likely that investors will prolong their wait-and-see stance as hundreds of regulations must be amended in accordance with the new legislation,” he said.

Others argue that the JCL could pose new risks to the country’s tropical forests.

On Tuesday, Arie Rompas, forest campaign team leader at Greenpeace Indonesia, highlighted the weaker penalties in the JCL for forest concession holders, which “cause land and forest fires and other issues surrounding a planned centralization of forest licensing, which is against Indonesia’s regional autonomy rules.”

In a strongly worded statement on Monday, rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) Indonesia called it a “catastrophic” move.

“The passage of the Omnibus law exposes the authorities’ lack of commitment to human rights,” AI Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said in a statement on Monday, adding that the “catastrophic law” would harm workers’ wallets, job security and their human rights.

He also added that the government failed to involve labor unions and civil society groups in the JCL’s drafting process.

“The law threatens human rights and will have a regressive effect on human rights in Indonesia, namely on the right to work and rights at work. This may amount to a breach of the prohibition of retrogression under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” he said.

US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

Updated 13 min 15 sec ago

US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

  • Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019
  • Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing

BOSTON: A federal judge on Thursday granted a last-minute request to stop the US government from turning over to Japan two Massachusetts men to face charges that they helped smuggle former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of the country while he was awaiting trial on financial crimes.
US District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston granted a request by lawyers for US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to delay the transfer shortly before the two men were scheduled to be placed on a flight to Japan.
Their lawyers sought the delay after the State Department approved handing over the men, who in September lost a court challenge to their potential extradition. They were arrested in May at the request of Japanese authorities.
Taylors' lawyers and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.
The State Department notified the Taylors' lawyers of its decision on Wednesday.
US Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a Republican who has taken interest in the case, wrote on Twitter that he was "outraged" by the State Department's decision to extradite the two men. "This former Special Forces member and his son will not be treated fairly," he said.