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Protests over Indonesia's new labour law enters second week

Straits Times - October 13, 2020

Jakarta (Reuters) – Hundreds of workers riding motorbikes and waving flags held a rally in the Indonesian capital Jakarta yesterday, as protests calling on President Joko Widodo to repeal a controversial new job law entered a second week.

Designed to boost investment and cut red tape, the so-called "omnibus" law has sparked widespread outcry across Indonesia, with protesters saying the legislation undermines labour rights and weakens environmental protections.

Demonstrations erupted in industrial areas and cities across the archipelago last week after the Bill was passed; there were chaotic scenes in some areas, public property was torched and almost 6,000 people arrested.

Yesterday, a union official estimated that 1,000 workers had gathered in central Jakarta to hold another protest against the law.

"We want the omnibus law to be revoked, and the government to issue a presidential decree to replace it," Ms Ema Liliefna from the Confederation of All Indonesia Trade Unions told Reuters.

President Joko has defended the law, saying demonstrators were motivated by "disinformation" and urging critics to challenge the law in the courts instead.

The new law, which revises more than 70 existing laws and regulations, has been met with cautious optimism from markets and the business community, but critics say the changes were rushed through and undermine existing labour laws, including on severance pay and work hours.

Protesters held rallies in other major Indonesian cities yesterday, including in Bandung and Medan, according to media reports.

Despite the President's assurances that the law is needed to help create jobs as South-east Asia's pandemic-hit economy veers towards a recession, several groups – including Indonesia's largest Islamic association, Nahdlatul Ulama – have pledged to lodge a judicial review.

Separately, an alliance of conservative Islamic organisations, including the Islamic Defenders Front and Alumni 212 movement, is planning to protest against the law outside the state palace today, according to a statement.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/protests-over-indonesias-new-labour-law-enters-second-week