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Labor unions plan mass protests, strikes as jobs bill nears completion

Jakarta Post - October 4, 2020

Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – Labor unions and civil rights groups are set to hold large-scale protests from Oct. 6 to 8 in opposition to the controversial omnibus bill on job creation, which is due to be passed into law in the next plenary session of the House of Representatives.

Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions (KASBI) chair Nining Elitos said the hasty and largely "clandestine" deliberation of the bill had left the organization no choice but to voice its opposition one last time regardless of the result.

"Without major opposition, today's ruling regime will continue to keep its eyes shut to the suffering of the people," Nining said during an online press conference on Sunday, which was attended by members of labor unions and NGOs affiliated with the Labor with the People Movement (Gebrak).

Activist Lini Zurlia said the protests throughout next week would take various forms, including strikes that would culminate in mass protests in front of the House complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, and regional administration offices throughout the country on the day of the next plenary session.

"Gebrak will mobilize around 20,000 people from Jakarta, Banten and West Java for the strike in Senayan on Oct. 8," she said.

"In total, the three-day demonstration by Gebrak and other regional alliances will involve more than 100,000 people."

All-Indonesia United Workers Confederation (KPBI) chair Ilhamsyah expressed his dismay that lawmakers and the government had decided to expedite the deliberation of the bill amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, noting that it was a very difficult time for large-scale protests because of health concerns.

However, he said the upcoming demonstration was vital as it would serve as a last-ditch effort to prevent the bill from being passed into law. "Whether or not we succeed should be an afterthought. What's important is that we fight," Ilhamsyah said.

The House's Legislation Body (Baleg) and the government previously agreed to pass the contentious bill into law in a plenary session on Oct. 8 despite significant opposition from members of the public in recent months.

"[The bill] has been approved for the next stage of deliberation," said Baleg chair Supratman Andi Agtas during a meeting with members of the government on Sunday, as quoted by kompas.com.

Responding to the latest development, Jakarta Legal Aid Institute director Arif Maulana said one final demonstration was crucial as an exercise in democracy to counteract the increasing pressure from the country's oligarchs.

"Those sitting in Senayan are not the people's representatives but rather the spokespeople of businesses," he said.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/10/04/labor-unions-plan-mass-protests-strikes-as-jobs-bill-nears-completion.html