Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jakarta Globe article: Workers’ Rights Start At Home: Activists

As the government pushes for protection of domestic workers overseas, activists on Sunday said it must start by passing a law guaranteeing their right to fair treatment here at home.

A bill being deliberated by a House of Representatives commission would mandate certain protections for domestic workers in Indonesia, which its supporters say is a crucial step before the country can negotiate protections of its workers elsewhere.

Rieke Diah Pitaloka, a Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker and member of House Commission IX overseeing health, manpower and trans­migration issues, which is deliberating the bill, told the Jakarta Globe that the legislation would set the tone for future deals with other governments to provide better working conditions for Indonesians working in such countries as Malaysia.

Rieke said 80 percent of Indonesian migrant workers were domestic workers.

Activists campaigning with the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT) have been calling for such a law since 2004.

Jala PRT chairwoman Lita Anggraini lambasted the Ministry of Manpower and Trans­migration for not doing enough to help push the bill through.

The ministry denies dragging its feet on the issue. Myra Maria Hanartani, the ministry’s director general for industrial relations development and workers’ social security, told the Globe, “It’s not that we don’t support the bill or are politically disinclined to it; we just can’t comment on it because we haven’t seen a copy of it yet.”

From 2005 to 2009, Jala PRT received 472 reports of domestic workers facing abuse by their employers, ranging from sexual harassment to withholding of wages and overwork.

Lita said the bill should include provisions for a weekly day off, standardized salaries, clear working hours and time for schooling or other opportunities for self-betterment.

Live-in domestic workers in Jakarta earn between Rp 400,000 and Rp 500,000 ($44-$55) a month, while in Yogyakarta they earn between Rp 300,000 and Rp 350,000, according to Jala PRT. The city-mandated minimum wage in Jakarta is Rp 1.1 million, but domestic workers are not eligible for it, given the lack of government recognition of the job as formal employment.

“We really need to pass this bill and get rid of the feudal system,” Rieke said.

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