The History of Indonesian Labour Law (Part III)

New Order Authoritarian Era (1966-1998)

After it comes as the champion in the 1965 political turmoil, the new military junta adopted authoritarian modernization. Principally, military regime often views itself as bringing political, social and economic stability to justify the rigid control of the state in every aspect of life. For instance, the state controls the economy to pursue maximum economic growth. Naturally, labour movements are closely monitored. Labour activity outside of production of goods and service is perceived as a disturbance to the smooth rotation of industrial wheels. In the case of Indonesia, importantly, labour is viewed as political risks to the ruling government. Labour movement brings about the idea of collectivism which is feared the most by an authoritarian state. Thus, a barren single union is created, operated and monitored by the state. It is likely that this scheme is formed only as a legal consequence of ratifying ILO Convention No. 98 by Law No. 18 of 1956 and the regime produced Labour Act No. 14 of 1969 instead of rightly providing a voice to collective in order to equally and actively participate in industrial relations.

In the early era of the new order regime, state interference in labour matters is very much apparent. Labour Act No. 14 of 1969, for instance, stipulates that the state runs labour provision, dissemination, and arrangement. Labour also viewed as production tools which roles are to produce goods and service for the society.  Worker rights are limited to the protection of safety and health, and morals, right to be treated with dignity and provided with a workplace that maintains workforce morale. Although collective right is legally recognized history shows that in practice this was not the case.

Unlike collective rights, the authoritarian government seems to view Safety and Health as a good matter to regulates further in a separate Act. First, occupational safety and health discourse less likely create a rift in the workplace. Second, sound occupational health and safety have a direct link to worker productivity.  Thus, Safety Act No. 1 of 1970 is issued. It stipulates responsibilities of the employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace in details and worker rights of the safe and healthy workplace.

Over time, the effect of global economic competitiveness and geopolitical shifts weaken the power of the militaristic regime. Although, industrial relations and workplace dialogue are still restrained by Labour Act No. 25 of 1997, that replace the 1969 Act, regulates the elements of universal workplace rights and protection such as employment conditions, floor wage, statutory leaves and social insurance which was only regulated in Presidential Decrees. Despite its drawback, this Act put a firmer foundation for the advancement of workplace protection and rights.

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