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Many firms reject workers' forum

While 85 percent of 14,504 firms employing more than 50 workers have complied with the 2003 labor law by establishing an employee-management cooperation (EMC) forum, 15 percent have not, reflecting some resistance, says an official. The data from the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry in Indonesia show that as of June this year, 12,417 companies have set up such forums. But more than 2,000 have not.

Deputy chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) Djimanto said Tuesday that many companies were still reluctant to establish EMC forums because in many cases the forums turned into pressure groups used by employees to force companies to fulfill workers demands.

“In practice, most of the existing EMC forums have become bargaining forums.

“This is very far from the forums’ original purpose to create shared understanding between employers and employees, and to pursue their common interests together,” he told a seminar on EMCs at the Apindo Training Center in Jakarta.

He said that ideally, the forums should be used as a platform for employers and employees to discuss constraints and opportunities in achieving the company’s targets and objectives. The forums should have limitations on the topics to be covered in their discussions.

The 2003 Labor Law stipulates that every company employing more than 50 workers is obliged to establish a bipartite cooperation institution as a forum for communication and consultation between the employees and the employers.

The detailed explanations on the procedures for establishing and running the forums are regulated in the 2008 Manpower and Transmigration ministerial decree on bipartite cooperation mechanisms.

A senior specialist from the International Labor Organization (ILO) Bangkok, Miaw Tiang Tang, who also attended the seminar, said that the role of EMC forums should be strengthened to facilitate harmonious industrial relations between employers and employees.

Besides the forums, she suggested that companies make clear work agreement with employees and formulate fair regulations.

“We hope that Apindo can motivate companies to establish EMC forums and assist the government [in supervising the implementation of the ministerial decree],” she said.

Apindo chairman Sofjan Wanandi said that the presence of EMC forums in companies could become tools to minimize internal disputes between employers and employees that otherwise often hindered the companies’ efficiency.

“Facing the globalization era, companies have to improve their competitiveness. One of the ways to do that is by establishing good relations between employers and employees,” he said.

However, Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (KSBSI) chairman Rekson Silaban criticized the forums since they might possibly weaken the role of work agreements between companies and their employers.

He argued that EMC forums had no legally-binding powers and could potentially hamper the employees’ interests, despite their stated objectives.

“Commitments made in EMC forum are weak and not legally-binding. We actually don’t really need these forums” he said.

He added that it was better for companies to focus on negotiating fairly with the employees in formulating work agreements.

He quoted a study released by the ILO recently, pointing out that companies with good and fair work agreements usually had more convivial and peaceful industrial relations anyway with their employees.

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