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Des '05

Freedom of association largely flouted: Union

Freedom of association is not being upheld in many workplaces here in spite of the seven-year reform movement, a labor union has reported ahead of International Human Rights Day.

The Confederation of Indonesian Prosperity Labor Union (KSBSI) said in a report launched on Friday that it had recorded at least 45 companies in 12 provinces that violated freedom of association, leading to the arrest of two labor activists and the dismissal of more than 1,400 workers over the past year.

Juanda, an executive of the KSBSI, said these offending companies had used various irrational reasons and taken numerous measures — either persuasive or repressive — to prevent the presence of more than one labor union in their respective companies.

“Two KSBSI activists in North Sumatra and East Kalimantan, respectively, were sent to jail on theft charges after they led demonstrations to demand the acceptance of a KSBSI unit in their own company,” he told a seminar held to launch the report.

The KSBSI said that a local unit of U.S. giant gold and copper mining company PT Freeport was an offender as it had rejected the establishment of a KSBSI unit at the company’s large mining operation in Timika, Papua.

Entering the reform era in 1998 following the fall of Soeharto, Indonesia amended the 1945 Constitution to adopt a true democracy and human rights principles. It has also ratified ILO Convention No. 87 on the freedom of association to allow workers to unionize, and introduced Law No. 20/2000 on the freedom of association.

During the Soeharto era, the regime only acknowledged one government-backed labor union called the SPSI, banning other unions to represent workers.

But now, at least 68 unions have already registered with the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, although a larger number of the country’s nearly 100 million workers have not unionized yet.

KSBSI chairman Rekson Silaban said the organization had several times filed reports on violations of the freedom of association to the relevant authorities but no serious action had been taken.

“The freedom of association is part of universal human rights and it is quite strange that violations continue to occur amid the reform era,” he said.

Yunus “John” Howay, deputy secretary of the local branch of the KSBSI in Timika, Papua, said Freeport’s management had rejected calls to acknowledge the presence of a KSBSI unit in the company and workers had been barred from joining the labor union.

“A unit of KBSI has been established by dozens of workers, but the management has refused to recognize it,” he said, citing that the management had only recognized the existing Confederation of All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI).

John said his office had sent two letters to the management to recognize the KSBSI, but no response had been forthcoming.

“In a meeting organized by the KSPSI in September, 2005, the management stressed that PT Freeport Indonesia accepted only one union representing workers in bipartite and tripartite negotiations with the management,” he said

Meanwhile, spokesman for Freeport Siddharta Moersjid denied the accusation, saying the management and its partner companies had never barred their workers from setting up their own unions.

“PT Freeport complies with the law and has never prohibited the presence of labor unions other than the KSPSI. The problem lies in the fact that no workers want to join other unions,” he said, adding that the management would not have any objections to workers joining the KSBSI or other unions.

Source : (Ridwan Max Sijabat) The Jakarta Post

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