Protests in Indonesia in opposition to new jobs legislation enter third day

Jakarta, October 8

Nationwide protests and labour strikes against a polarising new jobs law in Indonesia continued across the country for a third straight day on Thursday.

The “omnibus” jobs creation bill, passed into law on Monday, has seen thousands of people in Southeast Asia’s largest economy take to the streets in protest against legislation they say undermines labour rights and weakens environmental protections.

Indonesian labour unions march on a main road towards the Presidential Palace during a strike to protest against the government’s proposed labour reforms in a controversial “jobs creation” bill in Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 8, 2020. REUTERS

In the past two days, almost 600 people have been detained and two students seriously injured while the police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators.

On Thursday morning, crowds gathered across major cities on the most populous Java island, including Jakarta and Bandung, according to local media and video footage shared by Kahar S Cahyono, a spokesman from the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Union (KSPI).

Maulana Syarif, 45, who has worked at Astra Honda motors for 25 years, told Reuters he joined the protests in Jakarta to fight for the rights of future generations.

University students protest the government’s labour reforms bill in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 7, 2020. Antara Foto/Fauzan/via REUTERS 

“We ask that the law be repealed immediately,” he told Reuters. “This is our struggle for our children, grandchildren and our future generations…If it’s like this (with the new law) our well-being will decrease, and we will lack certainty in jobs.”

In conjunction with 32 other trade unions, KSPI president Said Iqbal said its strike would continue for a third and final day on Thursday.

Members of Indonesian trade unions protest the government’s labour reforms bill in Tangerang, Jakarta, on October 7. Antara Foto/Fauzan/via REUTERS 

The government of President Joko Widodo has championed the flagship legislation as key to boosting Indonesia’s ailing economy by streamlining regulations, cutting red tape and attracting more foreign direct investment.

Met with cautious optimism by some financial analysts, the bill has sparked a significant outcry, with labour unions, students and academics criticising it for a perceived lack of consultation, expedited passage, and problematic clauses they say will harm workers and the environment. Reuters

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