Mass strikes, walkouts in Indonesia over new employment law

October 7, 2020
Millions of workers have taken strike action across Indonesia to oppose the new employment law. Photo:

Indonesian workers took strike action across the country on October 6–7 against a new employment law the government argues will "attract foreign investment".

Masses of angry workers and students walked out, shut down workplaces and flooded the streets to oppose the neoliberal employment law that reduces wages, removes entitlements, erodes workers’ rights and weakens environmental regulations.

The law targets women workers in particular and scraps mandatory paid leave for childbirth, weddings, baptism and bereavement, as well as menstrual leave.

Overtime hours will be increased to four hours a day, and mandatory severance payments to employees lowered from 32 times the monthly wage, to 19 times the monthly wage.

According to the Jakarta Post, Amnesty International Indonesia slammed the new law as "catastrophic".

The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions told the Jakarta Post that around 2 million workers representing 32 trade unions would take part in mass rallies and strikes in various cities over a number of days.

The Indonesian People's Faction has been campaigning against the new law since April, and called on Joko Widodo's government to halt deliberations on it in favour of focussing on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indonesia is among the countries with the highest number of health workers who have lost their lives to COVID-19, with 188 deaths recorded as of September 8, according to Amnesty International Indonesia.  

According to AI Indonesia, a study conducted by Nanyang Technological University and the Lapor COVID19 (Report COVID-19) community predicted that Indonesia’s health care system will collapse by the end of this year if the government fails to implement strict preventive measures.

“The death rate among health workers has risen significantly. In July, when Amnesty International released the global report on health care and essential workers, a total of 89 health workers had died of the disease. The number has doubled since then,” said AI Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.

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