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Is labour leader Said Iqbal politicising layoffs to benefit the Prabowo camp?

Seruu.com - February 9, 2016

Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) chairperson Said Iqbal is again talking up the issue of mass dismissals (PHK), saying most recently that the wave of layoffs has also hit the pharmaceutical industry.

"In February the company again carried out sackings (of) pharmaceutical workers at a multinational drug factory", said Iqbal recently.

Iqbal said that hundreds of workers were sacked by pharmaceutical companies in February including, among others, PT Merck, PT Novartis, PT Sandoz and PT Sanopi Aventis. According to the KSPI, the reason for the dismissals was because the companies wanted to improve efficiency.

Not long after this however, one of the companies cited by the KSPI as carrying out layoffs, PT Merck issued a clarification. Corporate Communications Manager Merck, Melisa Sandrianti said that the company has not been dismissing employees. "PT Merck Tbk has not been laying off its employees as reported", said Sandrianti recently.

This is not the first that that Iqbal has raised the issue of mass dismissals. Earlier he also talked up the issue of the closure of PT Panasonic Lighting in Cikarang, West Java, and Pasuruan in East Java, as well as PT Toshiba Indonesia in Cikarang.

He said that these closures would result in the dismissal of thousands of workers. "Around 2,500 workers will be sacked", said Iqbal not long ago. Iqbal explained that these workers comprised around 1,700 KSPI members at PT Panasonic and 970 KSPI members at PT Toshiba.

Soon after this however, the head of PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia, former trade minister Rachmat Gobel responded by saying that the dismissals that took place at his company were not as severe as stated by Iqbal. Five hundred workers were dismissed, not thousands. Gobel also denied that there were factory closures but that they were simply downsizing.

"The reduction in workers was an efficiency measure that needed to be carried out in order to strengthen comparativeness in the era of the ASEAN Economic Community (MEA). So Panasonic carried out downsizing in three factories and two factories were merged into one, so this left a total of two factories", said Gobel.

So the claims being made by Iqbal and his group have been consistently rejected. Certainly we cannot ignore the stagnant global economy that continues to impact on the Indonesian economy. A number of foreign companies such as Ford have indeed carried out dismissals and even stopped operating in Indonesia.

However talking up fictitious mass dismissals as is being done by Iqbal is disgraceful and will not improve the situation. Because of this therefore, we have to ask what the motive is behind Iqbal and his KSPI 'group'.

If you look carefully, Iqbal is a labour leader who supported former general Prabowo Subianto in the presidential elections (pilpres) in 2014. So it is not strange that after the defeat of his champion by Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Iqbal has appeared somewhat 'unfriendly' towards President Jokowi.

Moreover Iqbal's dislike of Jokowi has been apparent since he became the governor of Jakarta. In 2013, Iqbal mobilised workers to attack Widodo's policy on setting the provincial minimum wage (UMP) which was deemed to hurt workers.

And after Prabowo was defeated in the presidential election and Jokowi became president, Iqbal has often talked up issues with the aim of attacking the government, or at least creating uproar.

Iqbal was one of the people who blew up the issue of the mass immigration of Chinese foreign workers into Indonesia because of the Widodo government's closeness to China. It turned out however, that according to data from the Department of Labour the number of Chinese workers working in Indonesia between 2014 and 2015 was less than 50,000.

Most recently Iqbal has again become 'popular' over the issue of mass dismissals which have turned out to be nothing more than empty talk. Is this just the politicisation of the issue of mass layoffs by Iqbal who is indeed close to political groups outside of the current administration?

If we look at his track record, it is very likely that this is indeed what Iqbal is doing. The desired effect of efforts by people such as Iqbal has been refuted arguments and data, because of the manipulation and politicisation of issue such as mass dismissals for personal political interests is behaviour that cannot be admired. (hd)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Said Iqbal, Penggemar Politisasi Isu PHK]


While the exact number is unclear, media reports do suggest that companies are laying off workers amid a slowdown in the economy and declining domestic purchasing power, primarily caused by the drop in global commodity prices which adversely affects countries like Indonesia with a high dependence upon raw material exports. This has been particularly so in the mining and minerals sector.

In the case of Panasonic, the closure of its plant in Pasuruan, East Java, was actually due to a significant drop in demand for compact fluorescent lamps in favour of LED lamps. Labour activists also point out that in many cases companies are using the current economic climate as a justification to dismiss workers who are then reemployed as contract or temporary employees with lower wages and working conditions.

According to data released by the Department of Labour in January 2015, as of October 2014, a total of 64,604 foreign workers were registered in Indonesia, a decline from 68,957 in 2013 and 72,427 people in 2012. The largest number workers come from China, amounting to 15,341 people, followed by Japan (10,183), South Korea (7,678), India (4,680), Malaysia (3,779) and the United States (2,497).

Source: http://mobile.seruu.com/utama/sketsaindonesia/artikel/said-iqbal-penggemar-politisasi-isu-phk.

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