Indonesia: FNPBI fifth congress -- `Time to awaken the sleeping lion'

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Compiled by Ulfa Ilyas, translated by Risma

November 4, 2010 -- Berdikari -- The National Front of Indonesian Workers’ Struggle (FNPBI) held its fifth congress on October 24-26 in Denpasar Bali. About 300 FNPBI organisers from nine provinces of Indonesia attended the opening ceremony. It was also attended by Agus Jabo Priyono, the chairperson of People's Democratic Party (PRD), and Agung Winarte from the Labor Department of Bali Province.

Agus Jabo, in his solidarity message, highlighted the importance of workers organising themselves and being at the forefront of the national liberation struggle. He disagreed with the idea that labour movement should not be political. He asserted that to alienate the workers from the political arena is the same as to deny the workers a better future.

Former chairperson of FNPBI Dominggus Octavianus said that the Indonesian labour movement currently is like a sleeping lion. “If we can awaken this sleeping lion, the imperialism and colonialism will go to pieces”, he said.

Therefore, Dominggus called for all unions to work together side by side to awaken “the sleeping lion”.

The theme of the congress was “Building a labor union with a vision of national industrialisation for people’s welfare”. It was expected to place workers’ struggle within the framework of rescuing the national industry from imperialism. Without factories and industry, workers cannot expect any improvement in their standard of living.

Moreover, currently the government has given almost no attention in workers’ welfare. On the contrary, the government’s policies legitimise low wages and other oppressive policies against workers’ rights. For instance, when workers are facing crisis, the government continues to cut workers' wages, reduces allowances and violates their rights.

Although the matter of employment and decent livelihood was guaranteed by the constitution, the current labour situation shows that most workers work under uncertain and poor working conditions. For example layoffs and contract and outsourcing have become the most frightening spectre for most workers in Indonesia today.

According to the new chairperson of FNPBI, Lukman Hakim, Indonesia today is undergoing the process of new colonisation called neoliberalism. Besides destroying national industries (de-industrialisation), in which its growth was only 3.5% this year – the lowest in the last 10 years – neoliberalism has also been exploiting workers through labour market flexibility.

Considering that nearly all labour issues is identical with political decision, Indonesian workers’ struggle, therefore, should become a political struggle as a way to fight for the interests of the working class in Indonesia.

In line with this, Lukman said that the congress decided that the FNPBI take a political line that unify all popular sectors and political forces that fight for national sovereignty. Therefore, he encouraged workers’ active participation in politics, like building a political movement, getting involved in the election and the preparation of legislation that will benefit workers.

Besides encouraging political participation, the congress decided that future FNPBI works will focus on mobilising the SBTK (Factory Level Labor Union) movement in order to strengthen labour's mass organisation. Last but not least, the congress also decided to change the word “Front” in FNPBI be changed to “Federation”, so FNPBI now stands for National Federation of Indonesian Workers’ Struggle.