Indonesian unions vow mass protests if the president signs jobs law

Members of Indonesian trade unions protest against the government's labor reforms in a "jobs creation" bill in Jakarta, Indonesia

Indonesia’s workers will stage further mass protests across the country if President Joko Widodo signs new jobs measures into law next week, the leading labor group said on Saturday.

“It is the exploitation of labor that we’re against,” said the head of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, Said Iqbal. “We are ready for dialogue, even ready for a debate if necessary in an open, public hearing.”

The government says the legislation will boost employment by cutting red tape, easing foreign investment restrictions, an improving labor market competitiveness. Unions and rights groups say the measures favor business over workers and the environment.

Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians have hit the streets across the archipelago in recent weeks, culminating in sporadic violence and thousands of arrests, as they protested the measures passed by parliament on Oct. 5.

Suppose the president, widely known as Jokowi, signs the measures into law, as expected, on Wednesday. In that case, labor unions will stage “massive national” protests on Nov. 1, centered on the State Palace and Constitutional Court in the capital Jakarta, Iqbal told a virtual news conference.

He said tens of thousands would be expected to gather in Jakarta and hundreds of thousands more across the country.

Spokespeople at Jokowi’s office, Jakarta police, and Indonesia’s economy ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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