President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono vowed on Monday to seek increased protections for Indonesian migrant workers during his address at the 100th International Labor Conference in Geneva today.
In a press conference prior to his departure, Yudhoyono said it was in Indonesia’s best interests to protect its workers abroad.
“That’s what I will say in my speech,” he said. “I will call on other countries that host our migrant workers to [shield them].”
He added the scope of the problems facing migrant workers was complex, which prompted the need for a national policy on managing such issues.
“Just so you know, Indonesia has ratified several very important conventions on workers,” Yudhoyono said.
“There are seven or eight key conventions. Indonesia was one of the first countries in Asean to do so. That shows how serious we are about tackling the problems facing our workers abroad.”
However, Anis Hidayah, executive director of the nongovernmental group Migrant Care, told the Jakarta Globe that the government had not ratified the International Labor Organization’s conventions on domestic workers or migrant workers.
“The government has just ratified the eight basic ILO conventions, including those on forced labor, equality and non-discrimination, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize,” she said.
“But it still hasn’t ratified the conventions on domestic workers or migrant workers. We must question why the government keeps putting of the ratification of these conventions, even in light of the fact that the conditions faced by Indonesian migrant workers are of serious concern.”
Anis said Yudhoyono’s claims of commitment to worker protection had failed to translate to action.
“It sounds like a joke when you have reports saying that Indonesia has successfully ratified the ILO conventions on migrant and domestic workers, when in fact Indonesia hasn’t done it yet.”
“So it’s very important that after the president gives his speech at the ILO conference, he must order the relevant government institutions to work on ratifying the ILO conventions.”
Retno Dewi, chairwoman of the Indonesian Workers Association (ATKI), said the failure to ratify these conventions had led to the 2004 Law on the Protection of Migrant Workers being far from effective in stipulating workers’ rights.
“Only eight of the 108 articles in the law touch on the rights of migrant workers, but they do so in a vague, ambiguous manner,” she said. Domestic workers in the country fared no better in terms of protection, she added.
“There are no laws on the statutes that recognize the rights of domestic workers,” Retno said.
Additional reporting by BeritaSatu