ANROAV Meeting in Indonesia: Creating OSH Momentum for the Locals

Muhamad Darisman

The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims (ANROAV) annual meeting on 18-20 October 2010, has created a momentum for the local Indonesian people. Attended by almost 100 international delegates and 50 local participants, the meeting was organized in Bandung, Indonesia, home of the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955. In reviving the spirit of the Asia-Africa Conference to build solidarity among nations to liberate themselves from colonialism, ANROAV (renamed during the meeting as ANROEV; see  Box, p. 40) is determined to build solidarity among working people and develop a democratic global network to create safe workplaces, fight for the rights of victims and against silent industrial massacre.

Indonesian groups, the ANROAV meeting was an opportunity to surface occupational safety and health (OSH) issues at the national level – and to show their bargaining power and pressure the government.


For Indonesian groups, the ANROAV meeting was an opportunity to be seized to surface occupational safety and health (OSH) issues at the national level. The internationalist spirit embodied in the meeting created a political momentum for Indonesian groups to show their bargaining power to pressure the government. The groups demand pro-worker OSHpolicies and recognition and compensation for OSHvictims. Preparation of the ANROAV meeting was organized by the local host, Local Initiative for OSHNetwork (LION), a local network founded on 20 March 2010. It focuses on OSHaction research, training and advocacy for OSHvictims. The preparation created a space for the local host to consolidate unions, NGOs and environmentalists. The consolidation was to encourage the collective ownership of ANROAV as a regional network at the local level.

The groups then decided to write a joint statement to be presented in the meeting. Since OSHissues were often overlooked by the media, the groups decide to package all information on OSHin a catchy and demonstrative manner. On the last day of ANROAV meeting, which coincided with the 100th day of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency, the local groups in Bandungorganized a protest bringing out OSHissues, along with hundreds of other protests in Indonesia. The protest condemned the government’s neglect of the fact that nine workers die every day due to occupational accidents in Indonesia. Around 500 protesters joined the protest, which was claimed as ‘the first big protest striving for workers’ OSHrights and justice for occupational victims.’ ‘A joint movement is necessary to demand the revision of OSHLaw No. 1/1970. We will continue advocating for victims at the workplace as well as building a strong network to improve the OSHsituation in Indonesia. The protest was only the beginning’, said Safari, chairperson of Indonesia Automotive Union (Serikat Pekerja Otomotif Indonesia, or SPOI). (Labour groups demand reform of OSHLaw No. 1/1970 so that it more clearly reflects the provisions of ILO Convention No. 155/1980 on OSH; also a major flaw in the law is the weak sanctions for violating employers – Rp100,000 (US$10) and/or six months’ imprisonment – which lead to rampant violations.)
 

How ANROAV has influenced the dynamics of the labour movement in Indonesia

The labour movement in Indonesiais very dynamic. Various loose alliances and joint statements to address certain issues have been established, and some momentum achieved. Nevertheless, these initiatives often are not sustained. Reflection upon this experience suggests that these initiatives are not sustainable because of lack of resources and commitment. Learning from this experience, LION, while still in its initial stages, set up the least ambitious plan in running the network. The plan was started by eliciting commitments and strengthening the internal solidarity among groups joining the network. The next step, which they have now embarked on, is to popularize OSHissues in Indonesia.

Dadan, representing the National Workers’ Union(Serikat Pekerja Nasional, or SPN) from West Bandung, admitted that most of the unions recognize OSHas an important issue to fight for. Yet, in practice, unions often encounter constraints. The major constraint is the lack of knowledge on OSH. He also admitted that the focus of struggle at the workplace is still confined to wages and dismissal cases. ‘The ANROAV meeting opened our eyes. It broadened our perspective on OSHas we heard many inspiring stories from other countries. It gave us more knowledge and insight. Many unions include OSHissues in their programme but there are many things that still need to be improved’, added Sugianto, a member of the union from Serang, BantenProvince(in the western part of JavaIsland).

Street performances during the protest on the issue of OSHin Bandung. 
The two performers are enacting a factory boss paying a bribe to a labour 
inspector.   Photo: Darisman


Indeed, lack of information and knowledge is a classic issue. Yet, it is also an immediate problem to be solved through educational programmes involving commitment and consistency from the participants. We have seen behavioral changes on the ground regarding OSHissues. ‘Before, I always thought that OSHwas merely about using PPE(personal protective equipment), but now I see OSHas an important labour issue belonging to workers,’ said Iwan Kusmawan, chairperson of SPNWest Java. Iwan added that he also pushed the national board of the union to make the OSHissue a priority. SPNWest Java has pioneered an OSHcampaign in WestJavaProvince. Early this year, SPNWest Java organized two protests demanding safe working conditions and workers’ participation and inclusion in social security programmes. The union also consistently implements OSHeducation programmes.

Media Coverage

‘One Million Workers Die Every Year in Asia’, ‘Indonesian Workers Under Siege of Occupational Diseases’ – these were the headlines of newspapers in West Javaon 18-20 October 2010. The ANROAV meeting gained wide media coverage in all of Indonesiaas well. Almost 30 articles and news features were released in newspapers and electronic media.

A reputable online media in Indonesia, Tempo Interaktif, highlighted the issue of the absence of compensation for occupational diseases and accidents in Indonesia. Citing the statement of Sanjiv Panditafrom AMRC, the news described the severe OSHsituation in Asiaas a silent massacre. Meanwhile the national media covering the ANROAV event questioned the negligence of the Indonesiagovernment, reflected in the absence of compensation and hazardous working conditions.

Pictures of street performances during the protest on the issue of OSHalso made headlines in the national media. The street performance, depicting the situation at the production line where the employer deliberately bribed the officials and workers slowly passed out and died, grabbed the media’s attention. 

The role of media has been significant in surfacing OSHissues in Indonesia. After the ANROAV meeting, the local media has been paying special attention to occupational accidents, especially in the construction sector. They also consult LIONto provide comprehensive accounts of rampant occupational accidents.

***

ANROAV meeting was a catalyst for OSHstruggles in Indonesia. Media attention to this meeting created positive public opinion for recognition of workers’ safety and health concerns. At this stage the campaigns taken up by the local groups still heavily focus on policy changes, but LIONis aware that there are still many shortcomings to tackle and other tasks for the campaigns. The process is long-term in that it requires a structured plan to raise awareness on OSHissues. As part of the process, LIONis also expanding its network by working with not only worker groups but also communities, like the limestone mining community and environmentalists. In sum, the most noticeable achievement is that ANROAV meeting is more than an occasional event, as it has encouraged a sustained OSHmovement at the grassroots level.

 

BandungDeclaration on Occupational Safety and Health in Asia

ANROAV Annual Conference Bandung, Indonesia, 17-20 October 2010

We, the participants of the 15th ANROAV conference, recognize the significance of the historic city of Bandungthat upheld the principles of independence, freedom, sovereignty and dignity of people in the Asia-Africa meeting to form the Non-Aligned Nations 55 years ago.

Asiahas now taken the centre stage of global industrial production. The Asian region also suffers from the highest rates of industrial accidents, diseases and deaths, with more than a million people dying every year due to work-related reasons.1  This massacre of workers is an insult to the human rights framework that was the soul of the BandungDeclaration2  in 1955.

Therefore in the spirit of the Bandung Declaration, we, the members of the ANROAV network, pledge to work individually and collectively to take and support actions to develop ‘good work’: work that is safe, meaningful, socially just and environmentally sustainable; work that enables workers to develop skills and knowledge and have a reasonable life/work balance; work where workers are treated with dignity and respect.

To achieve this, we will work and urge our governments to:

• Acknowledge the magnitude of the problem, when more than a million workers are dying every year in Asiaand millions more are getting sick or injured

• Act urgently, decisively and in good faith by making occupational safety and health (OSH) a priority policy issue. This should include the requirement of reporting all cases of occupational deaths and diseases in the respective countries. ILO Convention 155 should be ratified by all the governments in the region  

• Recognize that health and safety at the workplace is a fundamental human right of workers and that existing problems are due to the institutional failures and denial of these fundamental rights, not because of the ‘carelessness of the workers’ which is often promoted by the corporate sector

• Actively promote legislation and enforcement of laws to protect all workers irrespective of their legal status, especially the undocumented, informal and migrant workers, and resist the attempts to weaken the existing laws and agreements which protect workers

• Recognize that workers and their organizations have a crucial role in the implementation of better health and safety at the workplace. Organized and unionized workplaces are safe workplaces and efforts are to be made to protect the freedom of association at the workplaces 

• Ensure that injured and sick workers receive prompt and immediate treatment, just compensation and rehabilitation within a reasonable time   frame. The whole process should be simplified to ensure that victims are not further penalized by unwarranted delays 

• Ensure the proper diagnosis of occupational diseases by providing sufficient diagnostic clinics and specialists that are independent, transparent, and accountable

• Recognize that certain sections of the population are more vulnerable to the hazards at the workplace, due to their social exclusion and unequal status in the society. Special attention should be paid to protect these workers that include undocumented workers, migrants, women, and people of colour and minorities, to protect them and uphold their dignity

• Establish a legal framework which holds companies, brands and individual directors accountable for the criminal negligence leading to the death, injury and exposure to disease of workers and citizens in any country. Companies should be also held accountable for the actions of their subsidiaries and sub-contractors

• Ensure that victims and their organizations are included in the decision-making processes related to OSH policy

We also affirm that we will:

• Develop solidarity with working people throughout the world to resist the transfer of risk from one country to another, with a major goal being a global ban on asbestos; make efforts to hold the global electronics industry responsible for the harm caused by unsafe working conditions and continue our efforts to ensure that the industry cleans up the whole supply chain.

• Develop  an active and democratically operating global network of health and safety activists where the unique and diverse organizing initiatives in different countries are respected and supported.  

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1.  As per the ILO, out of a total global mortality due to work, almost half occurs in Asia. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/...

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian%E2%80%93African_Conference

 

Stop the Massacre of Workers in Asia NOW!