Sep 19, 2019 Last Updated 3:43 AM, Sep 16, 2019

From workers' rights to democracy


Michele Ford and Bob Muntz

Since 1998 organised labour has embraced a new era of frenetic organising, amid a climate of freedom unknown for a generation. Yet despite rapid growth in union numbers, their industrial and political strength is still limited. One of the main problems for the organised labour movement is its minimal influence on formal politics. Olle Törnquist suggests that alliances with middle class activists engaged with a wide range of other issues are necessary if the struggle for workers’ rights is to have any political impact. There may be reason for optimism about this strategy. Some of these middle class groups have already begun talking about forming a ‘common front’, including labour, to contest elections. Perhaps this would give labour more impact, although Fauzi Abdullah argues that it is too early for unions to engage in electoral politics.

It is ironic that the blossoming of independent unions in Indonesia has coincided with a global trend of declining union influence. In most countries labour has been faced with the erosion of workers’ rights, global ised industries, and new work structures that make organising and collective bargaining more difficult than ever before. In this globalised world effective strategies at the international level are vital for labour. Jeff Ballinger points out that some innovative strategies have been used in the footwear and apparel industries in Indonesia. But much more needs to be done at the international level.

Workplace union activity alone can no longer bring lasting success. Far-sighted and innovative strategies and coalition-building are needed at the national and international level to ensure Indonesian workers’ rights and achieve sustained economic and social gains. We should all be supporting Indonesian unions’ endeavours to consolidate their recent achievements.

Michele Ford (michele.ford@arts.usyd.edu.au) and Bob Muntz (rmuntz@vtown.com.au) are guest editors and members of the IRIP Board.


Inside Indonesia 86: Apr-Jun 2006

Latest Articles

Challenging syariah

Sep 16, 2019 - BALAWYN JONES

A woman gazes at the camera as the world moves around her / Ghiffar Ridhwan on Unsplash

The media ignores women’s crucial role in the formation of regional laws in Aceh

Competing Papuan identities

Aug 07, 2019 - PETRUS K FARNEUBUN

Jayapura, West Papua / Alex Drainville @Flickr Creative Commons

A battle is looming between an emboldened pro-independence movement and Papuans who are pro-Indonesia

Alternative tourism in Bali

Jul 22, 2019 - HANNAH SUTTON

Student volunteers and the local community collected rubbish and turned it into an ogoh-ogoh for local Balinese festivities. Source/ Sea Communities

Community programs in northern Bali are aiming to avoid negative impacts of tourism so evident in the south

Untreated trauma in Nduga

Jul 01, 2019 - HIPOLITUS YOLISANDRY RINGGI WANGGE

A teacher formerly posted in Nduga, holds her infant while instructing the children in the emergency school / Sorang Saragih

The plight of Papua’s internally displaced persons is not being recognised by the Indonesian government

The waste emergency

Jun 11, 2019 - ROLF HAJEK

 / Instagram @nickpumphreyphoto

Government, producers and the public must all cooperate to tackle Indonesia’s waste problems

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar