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Thai and Indonesian unions foster solidarity

29 January, 2014The national campaigns against precarious work in Indonesia in 2012 and 2013 mobilized millions of workers and showed true trade union power. It inspired many unions around the world, including Thai unions participating at national workshops on precarious work, organizing and campaigning held in Bangkok, in September last year. The result was a study visit to Indonesia.

Vonny Diananto, IndustriALL regional officer in Singapore presented the Indonesian HOSTUM campaign (Hapus Outsourcing dan Tolak Upah Murah, from Indonesian —Stop outsourcing, fight against low wage), during the workshop in Bangkok. Participants from Thai unions wanted to know how the campaign could be so successful. A program of study visit has been prepared in discussion with IndustriALL regional office and the Indonesian Metal Workers Federation (FSPMI). On 20 December six union representatives from Thailand, three women and three men, representing TEAM, TWFT, PPFT and EGAT LU, spent five days in the Bekasi industrial area in the outskirts of Jakarta. Bekasi is one of the biggest areas in Indonesia for the electronics and metal industry. The aim of the visit to Indonesia was an in-depth study about organizing and campaigning strategy.  

The Thai union representatives met with IndustriALL Indonesian Council chaired by Sjaiful Patombong. Indonesian union representatives shared recent achievements resulting from the national campaigns led by Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) under the leadership of Said Iqbal, who is also the president of FSPMI.

The campaign against precarious work is one of the key campaigns of the Indonesian union movement.  After years of campaigning for a better legislation, in 2012 Indonesian Constitutional Court issued a ruling against outsourcing, citing a reason of discrimination and violation of the Constitution. The Indonesian Ministry of Labour also announced a new decree to limit outsourcing to five sectors:  cleaning, security, transportation, canteen and mining service. The union movement led by KSPI organized a large-scale national campaign calling the government to enforce the new labour decree and the employers to observe the new law and correct their practices by directly employing the agency workers in production lines.

On the day of visit to Omah Buruh and Bekasi branch office of FSPMI - where workers and union activists working in East Jakarta Industrial Park often come to discuss and plan their collective bargaining  - Thai and Indonesian unionists exchanged information on collective bargaining strategy and negotiation.

As part of the study visit, the FSPMI also arranged for the Thai union representatives to visit Indonesia Suzuki Motor union to learn about union activity and collective bargaining at company level.  The local union also requested Thai union delegates to put them in contact with the Suzuki Motor union in Thailand, which was formed in Rayong, Thailand in December 2013. Currently the union is in a serious dispute with the company as the union founders were fired after signing their first collective bargaining agreement in December 2013.

The study visit was fruitful for both Thai and Indonesian trade unions. In May 2014, Indonesian union representatives will visit Thailand to attend the IndustriALL Regional Conference and spend a few more days to visit and learn about developments of Thai union movement. 

In appreciation of the shared experience and hospitality the representatives of Thai unions sent a letter where they said:

“Thai union delegates who participated in the study visit to Indonesia would like to express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the great solidarity and hospitality. Although the study visit was only five days, we had a wonderful experience and felt what it’s like to be a part of the strong union movement. We deeply admire the commitment, the hard working of Indonesian union activists and the great capacity to mobilize the working class to better the lives of workers and the people.  The national campaigns for living wage, health insurance and social security for all, and to end precarious work are the concrete efforts by the democratic Indonesian union movement. We also realize the importance of massive workers education which makes the successful national campaigns.”