Indonesia has passed a wide-ranging bill that will weaken environmental protections and workers’ rights in an attempt to boost investment.
Groups representing millions of workers said they would strike in response to protest against the bill, which will amend about 1,200 provisions in 79 existing laws after it was pushed through parliament with unprecedented speed. On Monday, thousands of workers were reportedly stopped by police from demonstrating at Indonesia’s parliament building in Jakarta.
“We will continue to strike nationwide,” Nining Elitos, chairwoman of the labour group Kasbi told Reuters. Ahmad Jumali, chairman of the Tanggerang chapter of the Federation of Metal Workers, also said workers planned to shut down production to protest the law.
The government argues that the bill will make the country more attractive to investors. Officials believe the changes will help Indonesia attract companies that are relocating from China.
Mandatory paid leave for childbirth, weddings, baptism and bereavement will be scrapped, as will menstrual leave for women. Work overtime will be increased to four hours a day, and mandatory severance benefits paid by employers will be reduced, from 32 times monthly wages, to 19 times monthly wages.
Regulations designed to protect the environment will also be reduced, with only high-risk investments required to obtain a permit or carry out an environmental impact assessment prior to beginning operations. Though permits are normally granted by local authorities, central government will gain the power to take over this process in some cases. The government will set up a land bank and manage this to acquire land for public interest and redistribute the land.
Restrictions placed on foreign participation in some sectors will be eased.
Critics say the rushed manner in which the legislation has quickly passed through parliament meant there was little time for scrutiny, and that the government has failed to consult experts.
Phelim Kine, senior campaigns director with the environmental group Mighty Earth, said the Indonesian parliament had made “a ruinous false choice between environmental sustainability and economic growth” and that the bill would legitimise “uncontrolled deforestation as an engine for a so-called pro-investment job creation policy.”
Asfinawati, the chairwoman of Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, accused parliament of ignoring the will of the people. “It’s obvious that there is a large protest from various sectors such as labour, indigenous community, students, farmers, women groups, and many others – but the government keeps going. It’s tone-deaf,” said Asfinawati.