Section 7. Worker Rights
The law provides for the right to form and join unions and to bargain collectively, although there is no legal obligation for employers to recognize a union or engage in collective bargaining. In the state of Sikkim, trade union registration was subject to prior permission from the state government. The law limits the organizing rights of federal and state government employees.
The law provides for the right to strike but places restrictions on this right for some workers. For instance, in export processing zones (EPZs), a 45-day notice is required because of the EPZs’ designation as a “public utility.” The law also allows the government to ban strikes in government-owned enterprises and requires arbitration in specified “essential industries.” Definitions of essential industries vary from state to state. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and retribution for involvement in legal strikes and provides for reinstatement of employees fired for union activity.
Enforcement of the law varied from state to state and from sector to sector. Enforcement was generally better in the larger, organized-sector industries. Authorities generally prosecuted and punished individuals responsible for intimidation or suppression of legitimate trade union activities in the industrial sector. Civil judicial procedures addressed abuses because the Trade Union Act does not specify penalties for such abuses. Specialized labor courts adjudicate labor disputes, but there were long delays and a backlog of unresolved cases.
Employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively in the formal industrial sector but not in the larger, informal economy. Most union members worked in the formal sector, and trade unions represented a small number of agricultural and informal-sector workers. Membership-based organizations, such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association, successfully organized informal-sector workers and helped them to gain higher payment for their work or products.
An estimated 80 percent of unionized workers were affiliated with one of the five major trade union federations. Unions were independent of the government, but four of the five major federations were associated with major political parties.
State and local authorities occasionally used their power to declare strikes illegal and force adjudication. Labor groups reported that some employers continued to refuse to recognize established unions and some, instead, established “workers’ committees” and employer-controlled unions to prevent independent unions from organizing. EPZs often employed workers on temporary contracts. Additionally, employee-only restrictions on entry to the EPZs limited union organizers’ access.
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but forced labor, including bonded child labor (see section 7.c.), remained widespread.
Enforcement and compensation for victims is the responsibility of state and local governments and varied in effectiveness. The government generally did not effectively enforce laws related to bonded labor or labor trafficking laws, such as the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act. Prosecutions were rare. When inspectors referred violations for prosecution, court backlogs, inadequate preparation, and a lack of prioritization of these cases by prosecuting authorities sometimes resulted in acquittals.
Penalties under law varied based on the type of forced labor and included fines and prison terms; not all were sufficiently stringent. For example, bonded labor was specifically criminalized under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, and the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act), which prescribes penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment, which were not sufficiently stringent.
The Ministry of Labor and Employment continued to work with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to combat bonded labor. Based on the ILO’s concluded “convergence program,” the Odisha government entered into agreements with brick kiln owners in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to protect workers vulnerable to bonded labor.
The Ministry of Labor and Employment reported the federally funded, state-run Centrally Sponsored Scheme assisted in the release of 5,295 bonded laborers during the period April 2017 through March. Some NGOs reported delays in obtaining release certificates for rescued bonded laborers that were required to certify that employers had held them in bondage and entitled them to compensation under the law. The distribution of rehabilitation funds was uneven across states.
Estimates of the number of bonded laborers varied widely. Official government estimates place the number at 18 million workers in debt bondage. Most bonded labor occurred in agriculture. Nonagricultural sectors with a high incidence of bonded labor were stone quarries, brick kilns, rice mills, construction, embroidery factories, and beedi (hand-rolled cigarettes) production.
Bonded labor continued to be a concern in several states. On March 15, 155 migrant bonded laborers, including 31 children and 63 women, were rescued from a brick kiln in Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, by an NGO in cooperation with the district administration. Most of the rescued persons were paid less than 200 rupees ($3.00) a week. Police registered a case against the owner of the brick kiln. On August 1, government officials in Karimnagar District, Telangana, invoked section 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code to rescue 32 tribal workers from labor bondage at an irrigation canal worksite. The investigation revealed that each worker was paid an advance remuneration of 20,000 rupees ($280) for 12 hours of work every day for nine months.
Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members lived and worked under traditional arrangements of servitude in many areas of the country. Although the central government had long abolished forced labor servitude, these social groups remained impoverished and vulnerable to forced exploitation, especially in Arunachal Pradesh.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits employment of children younger than age 14. The law also prohibits the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous work. Children are prohibited from using flammable substances, explosives, or other hazardous material, as defined by the law. In 2017 the Ministry of Labor and Employment added 16 industries and 59 processes to the list of hazardous industries where employment of children younger than age 18 is prohibited, and where children younger than age 14 are prohibited from helping, including family enterprises. The law, however, permits employment of children in family-owned enterprises involving nonhazardous activities after school hours. Nevertheless, child labor remained widespread.
State governments enforced labor laws and employed labor inspectors, while the Ministry of Labor and Employment provided oversight and coordination. Violations remained common. The law establishes a penalty in the range of 20,000 rupees ($280) to 50,000 rupees ($700) per child employed in hazardous industries. Such fines were often insufficient to deter violations, and authorities sporadically enforced them. The fines are deposited in a welfare fund for formerly employed children.
The Ministry of Labor and Employment coordinated its efforts with states to raise awareness about child labor by funding various outreach events such as plays and community activities.
The majority of child labor occurred in agriculture and the informal economy, in particular in stone quarries, in the rolling of cigarettes, and in informal food service establishments. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred (see section 6, Children). The NGO Child Rights and You stated in a July report that 23 million children between ages 15 and 18 worked in nonhazardous industries.
According to news reports, in a series of raids in February, district authorities and NGOs jointly rescued more than 150 child workers from roadside eateries, vehicle repair shops, artificial jewelry making units, and textile shops in the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh.
Forced child labor, including bonded labor, also remained a serious problem. Employers engaged children in forced or indentured labor as domestic servants and beggars, as well as in quarrying, brick kilns, rice mills, silk-thread production, and textile embroidery.
Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .
The law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status with respect to employment and occupation. The law does not prohibit discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS or other communicable diseases, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, or citizenship.
The government effectively enforces the law and regulations within the formal sector. Penalties for violations included fines up to 93,750 rupees ($1,320), prison term ranging from three months to two years, or both. The law and regulations, however, do not protect those working within the informal sector (industries and establishments that do not fall under the purview of the Factories Act), who made up an estimated 90 percent of the workforce.
Discrimination occurred in the informal sector with respect to Dalits, indigenous persons, and persons with disabilities. Gender discrimination with respect to wages was prevalent. Foreign migrant workers were largely undocumented and typically did not enjoy the legal protections available to workers who are nationals of the country.
Federal law sets safety and health standards, but state government laws set minimum wages, hours of work, and additional state-specific safety and health standards. The daily minimum wage varied but was more than the official estimate of poverty-level income. State governments set a separate minimum wage for agricultural workers. Laws on wages, hours, and occupational health and safety do not apply to the large informal sector.
The law mandates a maximum eight-hour workday and 48-hour workweek, as well as safe working conditions, which include provisions for restrooms, cafeterias, medical facilities, and ventilation. The law mandates a minimum rest period of 30 minutes after every four hours of work and premium pay for overtime, but it does not mandate paid holidays. The law prohibits compulsory overtime, but it does not limit the amount of overtime a worker can perform. Occupational safety and health standards set by the government were generally up to date and covered the main industries in the country.
State governments are responsible for enforcing minimum wages, hours of work, and safety and health standards. The number of inspectors generally was insufficient to enforce labor law. State governments often did not effectively enforce the minimum wage law for agricultural workers. Enforcement of safety and health standards was poor, especially in the informal sector, but also in some formal sector industries. Penalties for violation of occupational safety and health standards range from a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,410) to imprisonment for up to two years, but they were not sufficient to deter violations.
Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards were common in the informal sector. Small, low-technology factories frequently exposed workers to hazardous working conditions. Undocumented foreign workers did not receive basic occupational health and safety protections. In many instances, workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment.
On February 16, seven workers at a farm in Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh, died allegedly due to asphyxiation caused by inhaling poisonous gases when they stepped into a septic tank without wearing protective gear to clean a flushing machine. On September 10, five workers in West Delhi engaged to clean a septic tank for an apartment building died when they were overcome by fumes.
Section 7. Worker Rights
The law, with a number of restrictions, provides for the rights of workers to join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.
Workers in the private sector have broad rights of association, and formed and joined unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law places restrictions on organizing among public-sector workers. Civil servants may only form employee associations with limitations on certain rights, such as the right to strike. Employees of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are permitted to form unions, but their right to strike is limited by the fact that most SOEs are treated as essential national interest sites.
The law stipulates that 10 or more workers have the right to form a union, with membership open to all workers, regardless of political affiliation, religion, ethnicity, or gender. The Ministry of Labor records, rather than approves, the formation of a union, federation, or confederation and provides it with a registration number.
The law allows the government to petition the courts to dissolve a union if it conflicts with the constitution or the national ideology of Pancasila, which encompasses the principles of belief in one God, justice, unity, democracy, and social justice. A union also may be dissolved if its leaders or members, in the name of the union, commit crimes against the security of the state and are sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison. Once a union is dissolved, its leaders and members may not form another union for at least three years. The International Labor Organization (ILO) noted its concern that the sanction of dissolving a union was disproportionate.
The law allows workers’ organizations that register with the government to conclude legally binding collective labor agreements (CLAs) with employers and to exercise other trade union functions. The law includes some restrictions on collective bargaining, including a requirement that a union or unions represent more than 50 percent of the company workforce to negotiate a CLA. Workers and employers have 30 days to conclude a CLA before negotiations move to binding arbitration. CLAs have a two-year lifespan that can be extended by one year before lapsing. Unions noted that the law allows employers to delay the negotiation of CLAs with few legal repercussions.
The right to strike is restricted under the law. By law workers must give written notification to authorities and to the employer seven days in advance for a strike to be legal. The notification must specify the start and end time of the strike, venue for the action, and reasons for the strike, and it must include signatures of the chairperson and secretary of the striking union. Before striking, workers must engage in mediation with the employer and then proceed to a government mediator or risk having the strike declared illegal. In the case of an illegal strike, an employer may make two written requests within a period of seven days for workers to return. Workers who do not return to work after these requests are considered to have resigned.
All strikes at “enterprises that cater to the interests of the general public or at enterprises whose activities would endanger the safety of human life if discontinued” are deemed illegal. Regulations do not specify the types of enterprises affected, leaving this determination to the government’s discretion. Presidential and ministerial decrees enable companies or industrial areas to request assistance from the police and the military in the event of disruption and threat to national vital objects in their jurisdiction. The ILO has observed that the definition of “national vital objects” was expanding and consequently imposing overly broad restrictions on legitimate trade union activity, including in the export processing zones. Regulations also classify strikes as illegal if they are “not as a result of failed negotiations.” Unions alleged that in recent years, the government expanded the number of sites deemed to be of national interest and used this designation to justify the use of security forces to impose restrictions on strike activity.
The government did not always effectively enforce laws protecting freedom of association or preventing antiunion discrimination. Antiunion discrimination cases moved excessively slowly through the court system. Bribery and judicial corruption in workers’ disputes continued, and unions claimed that courts rarely decided cases in the workers’ favor, even in cases in which the Ministry of Labor recommended in favor of the workers. While dismissed workers sometimes received severance pay or other compensation, they were rarely reinstated. Some provisions in penal code were used to prosecute trade unionists for striking, such as the crime of “instigating a punishable act” or committing “unpleasant acts,” which potentially criminalizes a broad range of conduct.
Penalties for criminal violations of the law include a prison sentence and fines, and they were generally sufficient to deter violations. Local Ministry of Labor offices were responsible for enforcement, which was particularly difficult in export-promotion zones. Enforcement of CLAs varied based on the capacity and interest of individual regional governments.
Unions in various sectors were able to associate with one of the three major labor confederations–KSPSI (Confederation of All Indonesian Trade Unions), KSPI (Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions), and KSBSI (Confederation of Indonesia Prosperity Trade Unions). Nevertheless, several common practices undermined freedom of association. Unions alleged that employers commonly reassigned labor leaders deemed to be problematic. Antiunion intimidation most often took the form of termination, transfer, or unjustified criminal charges. Companies often sued union leaders for losses suffered in strikes. Labor activists claimed that companies orchestrated the formation of multiple unions, including “yellow” (employer-controlled) unions, to weaken legitimate unions.
Employer retribution against union organizers, including dismissals, transfers, and violence, occurred. Employers commonly used intimidation tactics against strikers, including administrative dismissal of employees. Some employers threatened employees who made contact with union organizers. Management singled out strike leaders for layoffs or transfers. For example, the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers Associations’ (IUF) alleged local subsidiaries of an international beverage distribution and bottling company engaged in efforts to undermine workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining, including by selectively targeting union officers for discipline and dismissal.
Many strikes were unsanctioned or “wildcat” strikes that broke out after a failure to settle long-term grievances or when an employer refused to recognize a union. Unions reported that employers also used the bureaucratic process required for a legal strike to obstruct unions’ right to legally strike. Unions noted that employers’ delay in negotiating CLAs contributed to strike activity or legal measures taken against union members in the event of a failed CLA negotiation. The ILO cited the lack of a strong collective bargaining culture as a contributing factor to many labor disputes.
The increasing use of contract labor directly affected unions’ right to organize and bargain collectively. Under the law, impermanent labor is to be used only for work that is “temporary in nature,” while a business may “outsource” (hand over part of its work to another enterprise) only when such work is an auxiliary activity of the business. Government regulations limit employers’ ability to outsource jobs to five categories of workers (cleaning services, security, transportation, catering, and work related to the mining industry). Nevertheless, many employers violated these provisions, sometimes with the assistance of local offices of the Ministry of Labor. For example, unions reported that hotel owners often attempted to make use of the cleaning services exemption to justify terminating unionized hotel staff employed in housekeeping and outsourcing housekeeping services.
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, prescribing penalties of imprisonment and a fine, which were not sufficient to deter violations. The government had difficulty effectively enforcing the law.
The law mandates the National Social Security Administration (BPJS) to enroll migrant workers and their families in the national social security program, enables authorities to prosecute suspects involved in illegal recruitment and placement of workers, and limits the role of private recruitment and placement agencies by revoking their authority to obtain travel documents for migrant workers.
The government continued its moratorium on sending domestic workers to certain countries where its citizens had been subjected to forced labor. Some observers noted this moratorium resulted in an increasing number of workers seeking the services of illegal brokers and placement agencies to facilitate their travel, increasing their vulnerability to human trafficking.
There were credible reports that forced labor occurred, including forced and compulsory labor by children (see section 7.c.). Forced labor occurred in domestic servitude and in the mining, manufacturing, fishing, fish processing, construction, and agricultural sectors, including on palm oil plantations.
Migrant workers often accumulated significant debt from both local and overseas labor recruitment outfits, making them vulnerable to debt bondage. Some companies used debt bondage, withholding of documents, and threats of violence to keep migrants in forced labor.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law and regulations prohibit child labor, defined as all working children between the ages of five and 12, regardless of the hours worked; working children ages 13 to 14 who worked more than 15 hours per week; and working children ages 15 to 17 who worked more than 40 hours per week. The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, defined as any person younger than age 18 engaged in any of 13 categories of hazardous labor, including prostitution or other commercial sexual exploitation, mining, construction, offshore fishing, scavenging, working on the street, domestic service, cottage industry, plantations, forestry, and industries that use hazardous chemicals.
Penalties for a violation of minimum age provisions range from one to four years imprisonment, a fine of IDR 100 million to 400 million ($6,860 to $27,400), or both. A violation of the prohibition against employing children in the worst forms of child labor is punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of IDR 200 million to 500 million ($13,700 to $34,300). Penalties were not always sufficient to deter violations.
The government had difficulty effectively enforcing the law prohibiting the worst forms of child labor. The government continued to make efforts at the local level to adopt and implement new regulations and policies combatting child labor as well as to expand access to social protection programs.
Child labor commonly occurred in domestic service, rural agriculture, light industry, manufacturing, and fishing. The worst forms of child labor occurred in commercial sexual exploitation, including the production of child pornography (also see section 6, Children); illicit activities, including forced begging and the production, sale, and trafficking of drugs; and in fishing and domestic work.
According to a 2015 National Statistics Agency report, approximately 6 percent of children ages 10 to 17 were working because of poverty.
Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .
The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation, but there are no laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, national origin or citizenship, age, language, HIV-positive status, or having other communicable diseases. The law states that persons are entitled to “employment befitting for human beings according to their disabilities, their education, and their abilities.”
According to NGOs, antidiscrimination protections were not always observed by employers or the government. The Ministry of Labor, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the National Development Planning Board worked in partnership to reduce gender inequality, including supporting equal employee opportunity task forces at the provincial, district, and municipal levels. The penalties prescribed under the law did not have a strong deterrent effect. Penalties range from written warnings to revocation of commercial and business licenses.
Women, migrant workers, and persons with disabilities commonly faced discrimination in employment, including often being offered only lower-status jobs. Migrant workers were often subject to police extortion and societal discrimination. Transgender individuals faced discrimination in employment, as did persons with HIV/AIDS.
Some activists said that in manufacturing, employers relegated women to lower-paying, lower-level jobs. Jobs traditionally associated with women continued to be significantly undervalued and unregulated. The labor law does not provide domestic workers with a minimum wage, health insurance, freedom of association, an eight-hour workday, a weekly day of rest, vacation time, or safe work conditions. NGOs reported abusive treatment and discriminatory behavior continued to be rampant.
Some female police and military recruits were subject to invasive virginity testing as a condition of employment, including use of digital pelvic probes that many activists claimed were painful, degrading, and discriminatory (and also not medically accurate). Despite widespread public outcry, police and military officials defended the practice.
Minimum wages varied throughout the country, as provincial governors had authority to set a minimum wage floor and district heads had authority to set a higher rate. The government continued to use a formula set in 2016 to determine the rate of growth for the wage floor, based on the inflation rate and the country’s economic growth.
The predominant factor in setting locality minimum wages was the government’s estimate of a “decent living wage,” which is determined by the cost of a basket of 60 items. The local wage council, composed of representatives from the government, employers’ associations, and labor unions, evaluates the basket items every five years. During the year the lowest minimum wage was in the regency of Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta Province, at IDR 1.45 million ($99) per month. The highest was in the national capital, Jakarta, at IDR 3.94 million ($270) per month. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the poverty line was IDR 13,333 ($.91) per day.
Government regulations allow employers in certain sectors, including small and medium enterprises and labor-intensive industries such as textiles, an exemption from minimum wage requirements. The daily overtime rate was 1.5 times the normal hourly rate for the first hour and twice the hourly rate for additional overtime, with a maximum of three hours of overtime per day and a maximum of 14 hours per week.
The law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace and to treat workers with dignity. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. In April the Ministry of Labor released Ministerial Regulation No 05/2018 on occupational safety and health, which included new guidelines regarding chemical safety, hygiene, and sanitation requirements, as well as indoor air quality for a safe and healthy workplace.
Presidential Regulation 20/2018 on foreign workers, which entered into force on June 29, simplified the approval process for hiring foreign workers by consolidating the process of obtaining work and residency permits into one application and requiring that companies facilitate Indonesian language training for foreign workers. Labor unions criticized the revised regulation, raising concerns it will accelerate the influx of foreign, unskilled workers.
Local officials from the Ministry of Labor are responsible for enforcing regulations on minimum wage and hours of work, as well as health and safety standards. Penalties for violations of these laws include criminal sanctions, fines, and imprisonment (for violation of minimum wage laws), which were generally sufficient to deter violations. Government enforcement remained inadequate, particularly at smaller companies, and supervision of labor standards continued to be weak. Provincial and local-level officials often did not have the technical expertise needed to enforce labor laws effectively. Enforcement of health and safety standards in smaller companies and in the informal sector tended to be weak or nonexistent. The number of inspectors was inadequate to enforce compliance in a country of 250 million inhabitants.
Labor regulations, including minimum wage regulations, were generally enforced only for the estimated 42 percent of workers in the formal sector. Labor regulations are not enforced in the informal sector. Workers in the informal sector, estimated to number approximately 74 million as of February, did not receive the same protections or benefits, as they have no legal work contract that could be supervised by labor inspectors.
Although the law and ministerial regulations provide workers with a variety of benefits, aside from government officials, only an estimated 10 percent of the approximately 52 million workers in the formal sector reportedly received social security benefits. Persons who worked at formal-sector companies often received health benefits, meal privileges, and transportation, which workers in the informal sector rarely received. A single state entity (BPJS Kesehatan) administered universal health coverage, and another body (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) managed work accident insurance, life insurance, old-age benefits, and pensions.
Palm oil workers often worked long hours without government-mandated health insurance benefits. They lacked proper safety gear and training in pesticide safety –problems that were common across plantation industries in the country. On plantations most workers were paid by the volume harvested, which resulted in some workers receiving less than minimum wage and extending their working hours to meet volume targets. According to labor unions, most companies failed to register their employees in the national social security system.
Unions continued to urge the government, especially the Ministry of Labor, to do more to address the country’s poor worker safety record and lax enforcement of health and safety regulations, particularly in the construction sector. In February an accident at a construction site for a commuter rail line in Central Jakarta occurred when a heavy crane toppled, killing four workers and injuring at least one other. An official from Ministry of Public Works and Housing acknowledged the fault lay in minimal attention to safety procedures during construction activities.