Workers need more than a holiday on May Day: Unions

Labor activists have applauded the government’s decision to make May 1 a national holiday starting next year but they called on the government to better uphold the rights of workers in the country.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to officially proclaim May Day a national holiday on Wednesday. Chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI) Said Iqbal said the plan was just the first step in a long journey to improve the lives of workers in the country.

“After more than 10 years, the government will finally establish International Workers Day as a national holiday. It is of course symbolic because making it a national holiday would not directly improve the welfare of Indonesian workers. Nonetheless, it is important to show that the state actually recognizes the labor movement in this country,” Iqbal told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said that the holiday would not affect workers’ productivity. “I believe that on the contrary it will encourage workers to work harder because they will feel that their existence is recognized,” Iqbal said.

Separately, member of the House of Representatives Rieke Diah Pitaloka of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) urged the government to take immediate action to improve the lives of workers and not just stop at making May Day a national holiday.

“For one thing, the government should enforce the law against errant employers so that they will think twice before doing anything wrong to workers,” Rieke said.

Rieke, who lost her bid for the West Java governorship recently, also urged Yudhoyono to prod his Democratic Party into supporting bills that would promote the rights of workers. “This will prove that the President doesn’t only aim at polishing his or his party’s image approaching the election. Prove that you actually care about workers,” Rieke said.

Workers unions, including the KSPI, are set to stage rallies across Indonesia, protesting against, among other issues, cheap labor, union busting and the government’s plan to increase fuel prices, which they claim will cause hardship for the country’s workers.

Source : The Jakarta Post – Margareth S. Aritonang

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