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Not all workers support Jokowi or Prabowo in the 2019 elections

Tirto.id - April 30, 2018

Lalu Rahadian – A number of trade unions have chosen not to support President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo or Prabowo Subianto in the 2019 presidential elections.

The reason being that they believe that the 7th president of the Republic of Indonesia has failed to create prosperity for workers and that Prabowo is no better than Widodo because of his dark past.

"Our political position is that it would be better for workers to build their own party as an alternative or third political force", said Populist Democratic Trade Union (SEDAR) spokesperson Sherin when contacted by Tirto on Monday April 30.

SEDAR believes that Widodo's failures can be seen from the enactment of Government Regulation Number 78/2015 (PP 78/2015) on Wages under which the determination of annual wage rises are calculated based on the inflation rate and economic growth.

According to Sherin, the PP 78/2015 ignores the annual reasonable living cost index (KHL) survey which used to be used by workers to demand wage increases.

She also cited the massive infrastructure development program under the Widodo administration which has not been enough to create new jobs. According to Sherin, the government should be carrying out a program of national industrialisation in order absorb large numbers of workers.

"The wage policy formula still perpetuates low wages and flexible labour ... One of the solutions (national industrialisation) is the nationalisation of foreign companies or at the minimum companies that declare a lockout being taken over by workers and the government assist in doing this", said Sherin.

SEDAR believes that Prabowo is no better than Widodo saying that the trade union will not support the chairperson of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) because they want to safeguard the mandate of reformasi – the reform process that began with the overthrow of former president Suharto.

Sherin says that Prabowo through his party have frequently been proven to support anti-democratic discourse. One example of this was Gerindra's support for the abolition of the direct election of regional heads and his party's push to give voice to the "Return to the 1945 Constitution" movement.

"Supporting Prabowo is the same as betraying reformasi... Prabowo is clearly problematic because he has a track record of human rights violations. Moreover this has been exacerbated with reactionary and intolerant [religious] groups gathering support for him", said Sherin.

Political pragmatism

SEDAR believes that the position taken by several trade unions who have declared their support for Widodo or Prabowo is pragmatic. They also warn that pragmatism on the part of labour groups will not have a positive impact on the working class.

According to Sherin, trade unions must learn from the experience of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election when the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) supported the Prabowo backed Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno election ticket.

This support was complimented with a political contract which contained the 10 demands of the workers and the people, abbreviated as Sepultura. But right after Baswedan and Uno won the election and were sworn in as the capital city's new leaders, the political contract was disregarded, which infuriated the KSPI.

"Giving political support to one particular figure is only in the interests of pragmatic politics. Mostly it is in order to get [government] posts or for carrier [advancement]... The Jakarta regional election last year should have provided a lesson that political contracts haven't got any teeth. Workers supported Anies, right, but in the end weren’t given the wage rise they demanded", said Sherin.

Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI) deputy chairperson Jumisih shares SEDAR's views on the elections. The KPBI has called on workers, students and the urban poor to build their own political force rather than supporting any of the candidates in the 2019 legislative and presidential elections.

Another trade union, the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) says that at every national or regional election workers are simply turned into a vote reserve.

KASBI general chairperson Nining Elitos believes that the 2019 elections are a capitalist's festival, not a people's festival – borrowing from the popular term "festival of democracy" to refer to elections.

She says that her organisation is taking a neutral position on the elections but respects the decision by other trade unions who want to support specific figures.

"Both of them [Jokowi and Prabowo] as we see it don't have a perspective that sides with workers or the ordinary people", said Nining.

Support for Widodo and Prabowo

In the lead up to the 2019 elections, two trade unions have declared their support for potential presidential candidates. The KSPI, which is chaired by Said Iqbal for example, says that they will support Prabowo. The Confederation of Prosperity Labour Unions (KSBSI) meanwhile has remained consistent in supporting Widodo as it did in 2014.

The KSPI decided to support Prabowo following a national working meeting (rakernas) on Saturday April 28. A declaration supporting Prabowo will be read out when they commemorate International Labour Day (May Day) on Tuesday May 1.

"One of the KSPI's considerations for giving support to Prabowo was because he has a commitment to pursuing the 10 demands of the workers and the people (Sepultura) which was submitted by the KSPI in the form of a political contract", said Iqbal in a written press release received by Tirto.

The KSPI is not just supporting Prabowo, but has proposed that recently sacked Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli be his vice presidential running mate. According to Iqbal, Ramli can find solutions national economic problems.

"Several of the [Widodo] government's policies are not pro-worker, such as Government Regulation Number 78/2015 on Wages, the Tax Amnesty Law and Presidential Regulation Number 20/2018 on Foreign Workers", said Iqbal.

The KSBSI meanwhile, through its general secretary Eduard Marpaung argues that it also has its own reasons for supporting Widodo. According to Marpaung, his group will not support Prabowo because of the past human rights issues that surround the Gerindra politician.

"With regard to [our] support for Jokowi, it will not be withdrawn until there is a new announcement on the KSBSI's political position at the 2019 Congress", said Marpaung.

The KSBSI gives Widodo a rating of 6.5 in improving workers' welfare since 2014. According to the union, Widodo still needs to improve many of the concrete problems facing workers.

But, they appreciate Widodo's commitment in continuing to provide Social Security Management Agency (BPJS) healthcare facilities and promoting infrastructure development.

"With regard to investment from China and other countries which give foreign workers a free ride, I think that this is an effort to develop the labour intensive sector and increase the demand for new workers domestically", said Marpaung.


KSPI president Said Iqbal, who supported former Special Forces (Kopassus) commander retired General Prabowo Subianto's failed 2014 presidential bid, also supported the Prabowo backed Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket in the religiously and ethnically divisive Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017. He later withdrew his support for newly elected Governor Baswedan calling him a "liar" after he failed to honor a political contract pledging not to use the PP 78/2015 to determine the 2018 minimum wage rise.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Tak Semua Serikat Buruh Dukung Jokowi atau Prabowo di Pilpres 2019.]

Source: https://tirto.id/tak-semua-serikat-buruh-dukung-jokowi-atau-prabowo-di-pilpres-2019-cJCD.

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