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Indonesian unions fear new law will gag them

Social Organization Bill passed after long debate

Indonesian unions fear new law will gag them

Indonesian workers at a recent rally (file photo)

Ferry H Djalur, Jakarta
Indonesia

July 3, 2013

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The new Social Organization Bill, passed yesterday by the House of Representatives, will severely restrict workers’ ability to express themselves, a union leader claimed.

The bill was passed after a lengthy debate and despite a voluble workers’ protest outside the parliament building.

Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Unions, said the law will have an immense impact on workers curbing actions such as strikes.

“The new law obliges unions to get permission from local authorities,” Iqbal said.

Likening the Bill to the laws and prohibitions that were passed during the despotic Soeharto regime, Iqbal said he suspects that large business interests could be behind it.

Abdul Malik Haramain, chairman of the parliamentary steering committee, insisted that the new law is in fact friendly towards labor organizations.

For instance, he said, when unions breach the law they will only incur sanctions rather than being disolved which had been feared.

However, Indriaswati Dyah Saptaningrum, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, said the law poses a serious threat to the nation’s democracy.

"The decision of the House opens the way for the re-enactment of a repressive regime against freedom of expression and association which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution," she said in a statement.

She added that the new law sees civil society as a threat to state and government, which needs to be controlled. 

"This view is clearly contrary to the reality and the real contribution of civil society," she said.

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