Indonesian protesters push repeal of Job Creation Law

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

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.

Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine

Updated 04 December 2020

Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine

Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine
  • US registers record of more than 210,000 new Covid cases in 24 hours
  • UN chief warns that even if vaccines are quickly approved, the world would still be fighting the pandemic’s aftershocks

WASHINGTON: The world passed the grim milestone of 1.5 million coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as several nations planned to deliver much hoped-for vaccines early next year to break the cycle of lockdowns and restrictions.

The total number of cases worldwide jumped to 65,127,355, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine's coronavirus monitoring center.

US President-elect Joe Biden said that on his first day in office he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help reduce transmission of the virus that is again surging in the country with the world’s highest number of deaths and infections.
“I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever,” Biden said in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast on CNN later Thursday.
But even as the latest positive news about a vaccine was announced, with the Moderna candidate showing it confers immunity for at least three months, several countries marked new Covid-19 records.
The US, for instance, posted an all-time high of more than 210,000 new cases in a 24-hour stretch to Thursday evening, meanwhile notching more than 2,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
And Italy registered 993 deaths, topping its previous record of 969 earlier in the year when it was the first European country to be affected by the pandemic.

To build trust in vaccines after they are approved, the 78-year-old Biden said he was willing to be vaccinated in public — following up on similar commitments from former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Biden also used the interview to say he had asked the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to join his Covid team and serve as a chief medical adviser.
But in a sign of the difficult work ahead, California announced new statewide bans on gatherings and non-essential activities, as hospitals in the nation’s most populous state face being overwhelmed.

The pandemic is showing little sign of slowing, with more than 10,000 new deaths recorded worldwide every day since November 24 — a rate never reached before, according to an AFP tally.
As the world tires of economically crippling restrictions, attention has turned to the race for a vaccine.
Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, piling pressure on other countries to swiftly follow suit.
But Fauci said Britain “rushed” its approval process.
“In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile,” he told CBS news.
He later walked back his comments, saying he had “a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.”
Also on Thursday, a study showed that the Moderna vaccine, which was recently demonstrated to have 94 percent efficacy, causes the immune system to produce potent antibodies that endure for at least three months.
In anticipation of such vaccines being approved, France announced that its vaccinations will be free and begin in January for one million elderly in retirement homes, February for 14 million at-risk people and spring for the rest of the population.
France was also mourning the latest high-profile figure to succumb to Covid-19, former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who died at the age of 94.
Belgium’s government also said it intends to start vaccinating its most vulnerable in January.
But the raised hopes didn’t only garner the attention of governments — IBM said Thursday that hackers are targeting the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain.
The tech giant said it was “unclear” if a series of cyberattacks it uncovered against companies involved in the effort to distribute doses around the world had been successful.
IBM could not identify who was behind the attacks, but said that the precision of the operation signals “the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that even if vaccines are quickly approved, the world would still be fighting the pandemic’s aftershocks.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come,” Guterres said while opening a special UN summit on the virus.
Guterres reiterated his call that vaccines be considered a “global public good” that are shared around the world.
More than 180 countries have joined Covax, a global collaboration initiative by the World Health Organization to work with manufacturers to distribute vaccines equitably.
A reminder of the pandemic’s society-altering effects came again Thursday with a landmark announcement from Warner Bros. studio, which said it will release its entire 2021 slate of movies on HBO Max streaming and in theaters simultaneously.
But some British football supporters were given a reminder of pre-pandemic days as Arsenal welcomed a crowd of 2,000 for Thursday’s Europa League win over Rapid Vienna.
It was the first time in 270 days that fans were back inside a Premier League ground.