World

Thousands of Indonesians protest against passage of jobs Bill

JAKARTA: Thousands of Indonesians took to the streets of several cities yesterday to protest the passage a day earlier of a jobs law they say is too pro-business but which the government has promoted as vital to attract investment.

President Joko Widodo's "omnibus" Job Creation Bill was passed three days ahead of schedule, revising more than 70 existing laws to accelerate reform of the economy.

The passage also came a day before the start of a three-day national strike which unions expected to involve two million workers in protest against the Bill.

Demonstrations began yesterday in industrial areas around Jakarta, including Tangerang and Karawang and on Batam island - home to many electronics plants, local media reported.

Kompas TV footage showed thousands of people protesting in Bandung, West Java, wearing face masks but without observing social distancing.

So far, workers have been unable to protest in front of Parliament in Jakarta as planned. The police have sought to block protesters citing the need to contain the coronavirus.

"The law will definitely affect the status of our employment," said Mr Anwar Sanusi, a member of FSPMI trade union in Tangerang. He took part in a rally with 400 others.

People fear losing pensions and insurance if they are made contract workers for life due to the law, Mr Sanusi said.

The law removes the three-year maximum duration of contracts and reduces severance benefits - provisions the government said are intended to promote formal hiring. Other reforms include longer working hours and changes to mandatory paid leave.

Indonesian markets cheered the passage of the Bill, with the main stock index up as much as 1.31 per cent and the rupiah reaching as high as 1.28 per cent, its strongest in a month.

Deputy Finance Minister Suahasil Nazara, speaking at a banking conference yesterday, said the law was meant to support the business community "to move forward and create many jobs".

Many Indonesians lashed out against the law on Twitter, with one trending hashtag incorporating an expletive against Parliament and another calling lawmakers traitors. - REUTERS

WORLD