Malaysian and Indonesian unions continue their fight to stop precarious work

22.12.2014

Last week, during national unity meetings in Indonesia and Malaysia, IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from both countries took stock of their action against precarious work. Each victory gained by unions continues to be challenged by employers.

In Indonesia, the three national trade union centers, KSPI, KSBSI and KSPSI, mobilized a million workers on 10 December against, notably, the use of precarious work in state-owned companies.

Despite a recommendation issued in October 2013 by the Indonesian parliament to ‘stop outsourcing’ in state-owned companies, massive use of outsourced workers is still ongoing in public companies.

The union-led Joint Movement for Workers of the State Own Companies (GEBER BUMN) is currently spearheading a campaign to ban outsourcing in the public sector and to change the status of approximately 280,000 outsourced workers.

Several of IndustriALL’s Indonesian affiliates are participating in this campaign including metal unions FSPMI and Lomenik; energy unions FPE and KEP; and mining union CEMWU.

In the public sector they are mobilizing and organizing precarious workers in companies such as the electricity firm PLN and oil & gas business Pertamina.

At the IndustriALL national unity meeting in Jakarta, affiliates reaffirmed their determination to continue this campaign. At the same time, they will keep fighting precarious work in private sector companies.

It has been reported that contract and outsourced workers in the garment, textile and footwear industries could represent 65% of the workforce and 60.7% in the metal and electronic industries in Indonesia. Unions face resistance from employers to enforce the November 2012 Ministry of Manpower’s decree stating that private sector companies could use agency workers in only five job categories: security, cleaning, catering, mining sector support services, and transport services.

In Malaysia, the fight against precarious work is closely linked to the issue of migrant workers. Companies operating in the country have been using labour brokers to bring in cheap workers from countries such as Nepal and Myanmar and employing them indirectly on fixed-term contracts.

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), with the support of IndustriALL, has been a critical actor in fighting against outsourcing in Malaysia. Thanks to its ongoing protest the government has been obliged to limit the use of outsourcing in the agriculture sector.

Certain confusion, maintained by employers, still surrounds this legislation. At the national unity meeting in Kuala Lumpur, affiliates reported that the use of outsourced local or migrant workers is still generally a problem in Malaysia. Affiliates made an action plan to organize precarious workers, in particular migrant workers, despite all the challenges this entails.

Migrant workers are often scared to participate in trade union activities and are routinely threatened with being sent back to their countries. Despite these threats, IndustriALL affiliates reported that fixed term migrant workers have started to develop a strategy to overcome the obstacles imposed on them by their employers to participate in secret ballots in manufacturing companies.

IndustriALL will continue to support its affiliates in both countries to continue to actively enforce the existing legislation and ensure that this puts effective controls on the use of precarious work by employers.