Omnibus Bill on Job Creation Poses “Serious Threat” To Human Rights

Indonesia’s government and parliament must amend or scrap a number of problematic articles in the draft Omnibus Bill on Job Creation, Amnesty International Indonesia said today.

Amnesty issued the call as the Indonesian government and parliament press ahead with plans to pass the bill into law amid the pandemic and despite widespread opposition from civil society groups.

“The bill in its current form has the potential to violate human rights and have a regressive effect on Indonesia’s international human rights obligations, namely on the right to work and rights at work,” said Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director.

“It has the potential to let human rights abuses go unchallenged and give dangerous leeway for employers to exploit workers. This is a serious threat to workers’ rights and human rights, full stop,” Usman added.

The proposed bill will revise 79 laws deemed an obstacle to investment and reorganize them into 11 clusters comprising 1,244 articles, including the three existing laws related to labour and employment: the Manpower Law, the Social Security Law and the National Social Security Agency Law.

An attack on workers’ wallets and job security

The bill in its current form would violate workers’ rights to just and favourable conditions of work as prescribed under Article 7 of the ICESCR. These conditions include fair wages, equal pay for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, reasonable limitations on working hours, protection for workers during and after pregnancy, and equality of treatment in employment.

The bill will no longer consider the rate of inflation when setting the minimum wage and revokes the city or district-level set minimum wage (UMK) which may lead to the imposition of a province-wide flat minimum wage across all cities and districts regardless of differences in cost of living.

“Eliminating the inflation and cost of living criteria to determine the minimum wage will weaken the minimum wage standards in provinces with economic growth that are close to zero or in the negative, such as Papua. In very many cases, people will not earn enough to cover their daily cost of living. This clearly a step backwards from past protections, and takes Indonesia further away from international standards,” Usman said.

The new provisions will also enable employers to keep workers on temporary contracts for an indefinite period of time and exempt employers from their obligation to place workers on permanent contracts. The provision has the potential to perpetuate non-permanent work and reinforce unfair treatment arising from precarious employment. This will most likely deny temporary workers adequate protection under labour and social security legislation, including pensions, 12-days annual leave (for temporary workers working under a year), and compensation for the termination of employment. This amounts to retrogression from existing legislation and international human rights standards.

Risk of unlimited working hours but no added income

Under the Omnibus Bill, workers can also be forced to work extra hours for no extra income. The bill increases the current overtime limit set by the existing Manpower Law from three to four hours per day and from 14 to 18 hours per week. It also regulates that in specific sectors, employers will be given the discretion to create their own schemes to calculate the rate of overtime compensation.

Furthermore, the bill also disadvantages workers by eliminating certain forms of paid leave including menstruation leave, personal leave (such as marriage, circumcision, baptism, or death in the family), parental leave, and religious holidays, currently taken in addition to the statutory 12-days annual leave.

“Giving employers absolute discretion to create their own work period schemes will clearly put working Indonesians at a disadvantage and trigger a race to the bottom for working standards,” Usman said.

Lack of consultation

The drafting process of the bill was overly opaque. The Government claims to have involved 14 trade unions as part of the public consultation process – a claim rejected by those unions, stating that they were not included from the beginning. That means there was no open and honest interaction between public authorities and all members of society in producing the bill.

“The trade unions should have been involved in the drafting process from the very beginning, because their members will be directly affected by the bill. The government is supposed to properly hear and consider the voices of labour groups. All citizens have the right to participate in public affairs, as guaranteed by Article 25 of the ICCPR,” Usman said.