5 November 2020

Chiang Mai, Thailand

We, APWLD, a regional feminist network with 252 members in 27 countries in Asia and the Pacific, express our solidarity with feminist movements, trade unions and workers, and other social movements in Indonesia in opposing Omnibus Law No. 11/2020 on Job Creation. We express our deep concern that the Indonesian government has passed a patriarchal anti-people law which is harmful to grassroots women, workers and the environment. The violent act of the police and government authorities including firing tear gas at the protestors is not acceptable as the protestors exercise their fundamental human rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression. 

Since 2019, Indonesian Government issued an executive order to attract foreign investment to generate economic growth, and to ‘cut red tape’ by creating the omnibus law as a way to amend 79 existing laws, including the Indonesia’s pro-labour laws, the Law of Protection and Empowerment of Farmers as well as the Law of Protection of Sustainable Food Crops Farmland in Indonesia. When the COVID-19 pandemic spread widely, the government began to add: “to recover the economy amid COVID-19” as justification to legalise and gain support for the Omnibus law. The government’s action is clearly in line with the intervention from International Financial Institutions and the World Trade Organisation to cement the neoliberal agenda in national economic policies. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank impose conditionalities to COVID-19 recovery loans to developing countries by forcing them to “promote fiscal consolidation in the recovery phase  in a way to apply austerity measures by cutting the public expenses, including the safety nets for the workers, which further deepen pre-existing inequalities. 

The omnibus law (the Law) contains harmful articles that directly affect rural, indigenous, migrant, urban poor women, as well as  women workers as it will further increase land grabbing, threaten environmental sustainability, and exclude women from their rights to livelihood, decent work and a living wage. First, the Law simplifies environmental permits and consequently weakens the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is required in the environmental safeguards. Under the Law, corporations will be legally allowed to exclude people and women’s participation in the assessments and remove civil society participation in the EIA committee. Second, the Law permits short-term contractualisation, enabling  corporations to avoid and cut down severance pay and other workers’ benefits such as paid maternity leave, family benefits or yearly increment. Third, the Law will perpetuate the gender pay gap and justify corporations to pay poverty wages. It removes legal provision on addressing decent living costs (Kebutuhan Hidup Layak-KHL) to calculate wage, legalises the application of hourly and piece rates wages for workers, and allows overtime work hours to be extended without pay. Also, it removes legal sanction for employers and corporations who pay low and delay the wage payment. Lastly, the Law permits the expansion of outsourcing schemes to apply to all sectors, which will leave workers unprotected. Women workers in the labour intensive-low paid sectors will be devastated by these practices, which were considered illegal under the previous labour law

The Law is designed to systematically exploit women’s labour based on its neoliberal ideology and agenda.  Women will be trapped into  low-waged, precarious, and flexible labour forces, subsequently weakening their collective labour-power. Contractualisation and the flexibilisation of labour do not help workers to attain a better job. Instead, it threatens workers’ welfare and traps them further into poverty. Over time, these situations trigger women to move to the informal sector and migrate to work without any labour and social protections. Due to the lack of clarity in the regulatory framework on the labour inspection and the license of Indonesian migrant workers placement agency, women migrant workers will be more vulnerable to violence and other forms of human rights violations. 

Moreover, compared to men, a higher percentage of women are burdened with care demands and sacrifice their job to perform patriarchal gender roles. If the Omnibus law is implemented, the number of women in unpaid work will rocket up, widen the gender gap in unpaid care work, normalise gender division of labour and further cement the patriarchal neoliberal model of development.   

It is outrageous that the Indonesian Government systematically excluded women’s rights groups, trade unions and workers, and civil societies in the process of assessing the proposed omnibus bill. The government and parliament deliberately overlooked and silenced people’s voices in its law-making procedure, and instead used COVID-19 as momentum to accelerate the legislative process. In opposition to the bill, massive rallies and protests have taken place in industrial areas, in the streets, and the cities across Indonesia, by the labour alliances, women human rights defenders, students, Indigenous Peoples, urban poor, farmers, fishers and other marginalised groups. In responding to the strikes, the government has continued to use explicit power to threaten workers and to crack down on trade unions with the police exercising excessive and uncalled for violence to ban the gatherings, disperse the strikes, and attack-and-arrest the protesters in Jakarta and other cities. 

APWLD supports the call by feminists movements, trade unions and workers, and other social movements in Indonesia in urging the government of Indonesia to:  

  1. Repeal the Omnibus Law no. 11/2020 on Job Creation. 
  2. Stop the violence against the protesters, investigate excessive use of force by the police and hold the perpetrators accountable.   
  3. Fulfil human rights obligations as a responsible member of the UN Human Rights Council. 
  4. Establish a process engaging diverse social justice and peoples’ movements to assess existing laws of Indonesia to ensure the adherence to international human rights norms and standards and advance Development Justice.