Freedom of Association for the Public Sector employees in Indonesia: Challenges and development

By Indah Budiarti[1]

Right of workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, to establish organization. Article 2 of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948 (ILO Convention No. 87) is designed to give expression to the principles of freedom to establish or join workers’ organization. This means essentially that freedom of association is recognized without discrimination of any kind based on occupation, sex, colour, race, beliefs, nationality, political opinions……this also means not to workers in private sector of the economy but also to civil servants and public services employees in general.

Indonesia was the first country in Asia and Pacific has ratified all eight core ILO Conventions covering the fundamental principles and rights at work. The circumstance of the ratification was unique for Indonesia, as “consequences” of devastating political, social and economical of the crippling Asian financial crisis (1996) and collapsed of the authoritarian Orde Baru regime. It “forced” Indonesia on political change and to respect for human rights and its willingness to work with international organizations (World Bank and International Monetary Fund led to the significant involvement in wide range matters relating to the recovery of the Indonesian economy). ILO also played as significant role: the acceptance by Indonesia of a direct contact mission from ILO to assist the government in ensuring that its labour legislation fully complies with the requirement of the right to organize and collective bargaining convention, 1949 (No. 98) (ratified by Indonesia in 1957) and to provide advice on the necessary measures to be taken to ensure full compliance of labour legislation with convention No. 87[2]. The first began with the ratification of ILO Convention No. 87/1948 in June 1998[3]. It has made significant progress that Indonesia civil servants and state own enterprises workers to be ensure to establish and join their worker organization. 

Public Services Employees

It is difficult to define public services employees in Indonesia. However, Indonesian civil servants and state-owned enterprises workers (BUMN[4]) are categorized as the public services employees.

Law No. 43/1999 on Amendments of Law No. 8/1974 on Public Officers (Pokok-Pokok Kepegawaian), a heightened emphasis that Indonesia Civil Service is to serve the public as well as the state, the law also given significant aspect prohibition on political party memberships[5]. The Indonesian civil service consists of civil servants (Pegawai Negeri Sipil), member of the Armed Forces of Indonesia (TNI-Tentara National Indonesia) and members of Indonesian National Police (POLRI – Kepolisian Negara Republik Indonesia). In June 2006[6], according to National Civil Services Agency (Badan Kepegawaian Nasional or BKN) there were 3,633,261 civil servants in Indonesia (excluding military and police).

The BUMN in English translation as State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in general term is a corporate body which owned by the government (central and local), and or shares with local government. The office of the Minister of State-owned Enterprises supervises 139 SOEs[7].

Freedom of Association and the protection of the right to organize

The political change and ratification of ILO Convention No. 87/1948 have interrelated to the respect of workers rights to freedom of association. Before 1998, only single umbrella organisation for the private workers, namely FSPSI (Federasi Serikat Pekerja Indonesia) and KORPRI (Korps Pegawai Republik Indonesia – Indonesia Civil Servants Corp) was for the civil servants and state-owned enterprises employees.

In the mid-1970s, the government began to allow development of new union structure, but with a clear understanding that they would be controlled and would be used to support the government’s effort to develop economy. The All Indonesia Workers’ Federation (FBSI) was established in 1975. In 1985, this organisation changed its name to Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (SPSI), which late became Federasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (FSPSI). FSPSI was the only permitted trade union and was heavily influenced by the state both at national and local level[8].

KORPRI was established on November 29, 1971 by Presidential Decree No.82/1971, initiated to form the organisation came from the late Amir Machmud when he was Home Affairs Minister in order to integrated civil servants, with this integration KORPRI bore two consequences, this later developed into a concept of mono-loyalty. The concept of mono-loyalty has been translated into the mobilisation of the civil servant for the support to GOLKAR (GOLKAR’s was very productive “political machine” for Orde Baru). The Law No.3/1975 concerning Political Party and Golongan Karya-GOLKAR and Government Regulation No. 20/1976 concerning Indonesian Civil Servants Memberships into Political Party and Golongan Karya-GOLKAR, gives more strengthen their function. In every National Conference of KORPRI decided that this organisation should distribute their political aspiration into GOLKAR.  Article 2 Paragraph 2 of the Presidential Decree No. 82/1971, KORPRI “the only coordinating institution for assemble and construct of Indonesian Civil Servants outer part their official duty”. The purpose for founding was “Indonesia Civil Servants have participated takes care of and place on a solid footing dynamical of political and social stability in the Republic of Indonesia”.

In 1999, KORPRI was conducted their Fifth National Congress (MUNAS[9]), the congress endorsed new paradigm of KORPRI, KORPRI BARU:

  • professionalism as civil servant;
  • building welfare for members;
  • Stand neutrality from political party.

In this Congress KORPRI given free option statuses to state-owned enterprises employees to remain become members[10] or withdraws from the organisation and establish their own. As a result many unions have emerged in state-owned enterprises[11]. National Electricity Company worker union (SP.PLN), Jawa Bali Generating Power Workers Union (SP.PJB), Indonesia Power Employees Union (PP Indonesia Power), Angkasa Pura 1 workers union (SP.AP1) and many other established new trade unions outside of the KORPRI structure. KORPRI itself registered their organisation as trade union in the Manpower Department but later denied the status as trade union.

Teachers belong mainly to the PGRI[12], the Teacher’s Association, which is registered[13] at the national level as a trade union (private or non-public teachers only); based on Suharto-era arrangements, the Indonesia Civil Servants Corps (KORPRI) also claims PGRI as an affiliate and has sought to maintain an automatic dues’ deduction from teachers’ salaries, despite a national PGRI decision to distance the organisation from KORPRI.

The trade union act (UU No. 21/2000) allows workers in the workplace to organize[14], but trade unions have to register with the ministry of manpower in order to be recognised[15]. At least ten members are required to form a union. Trade unions can be formed across sectors and nationwide.  The union has to keep the government informed of nominations and changes in their governing bodies. Civil servants have the right to organize but this right is restricted. Article 44 of Act No. 21 of 2000 on labour/trade union proclaims that civil servants shall enjoy freedom of association and that the implementation of this right shall be regulated in a separate Act. Such an Act has not been adopted yet. Substantively, this law is discriminative because there is differentiation in regulation on right to organize and freedom of association. Related to this matter, Prof. Payaman Simanjuntak urged that shall there be no regulation for civil servants to organize, article 44 (1) of the law and ILO Convention No 87/1948 can be used as referent.

ILO Convention No. 151/1978 concerning protection of the right to organize and procedure for determining condition of employment in the public sector stated that“Public employees shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment (article 4 (1))”. This convention (Article 7)[16] regulates right to negotiate in determining terms and conditions of employment between public authorities and public employees’ association.[17] June 2008, ILO adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work. The declaration commits Members States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories[18], whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. Indonesia is equally obligated as do the other countries to respect for and promote the declaration because it has been ILO member since 1950.

The ratification of ILO Convention had given tremendous impact the right to organise and protection of the right to organise to the public services employees in Indonesia but it has already given difficulties in regard to its implementation referring to the Law No. 21/2000 concerning labour unions/trade unions (article 44)[19].

The impact of the new freedom of association environment on the development of trade unions is considered, however, it is clear that trade unions are facing a transition from the experience of repression to face the very different challenges of operating in a more open industrial relations environment but the government still wants to influence.

Public services employees play an important role not only to satisfy workers concerns but to accomplish responsibilities and commitment for quality public service, and ensure social justice[20]. They are strong when they organised.  Their movement is now beyond expectation of the management when facilitated on the union establishment. Full freedom of association means also include the right to strike. Strike is an intrinsic corollary of the right to organise protected by the ILO Convention No. 87/1948 but it does not explicit mention the right to strike[21]. Strike is essential element of trade union rights and recognised in most countries as one of the essential means through which workers and their organizations may defend their economic and social interests. Indonesia by Law No 13/2003[22] concerning manpower regulates workers rights to strike and how the strike can be carried out[23] by workers who work for public services companies and/or ones with activities dangerous to human safety[24] (hospitals, fire department, those providing railway service, those in charge of sluices, those in charge of regulating air traffic and those in charge of sea traffic[25]). Strike out is protected by law (Article 143[26]). However, Law No 13/2003 does not explicitly and in detail state how civil servants and public services workers may go for strike except for those whose work will lead to endangerment of human lives. Implicitly, it means that civil servants and public services employees not included in this category can go for strike.

In spite of, freedom of association is guaranteed and protected by the Indonesia labour unions/trade unions’ law, but violations of the rights rose significantly[27]. Yet, the public sector unions are discovering the benefits of trade union action to improve quality working conditions and its quality public services (defend the public interests). The growing up of members and activities of state enterprises workers unions is not easily understood by the companies management (and government as well). Slogan of harmonious industrial relationship is still translated into a relation between master and servant. In one hand, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize has fostered self-confidence in workers, and through the union they demand for equal treatment and respect for their national law-and-regulation-protected rights. In the other hand, management has yet not been ready for these. So many actions have been taken by SOEs union as a counterbalance to SOEs management’s attitude that caused violations of worker rights, for example violation of rights which are agreed and signed in collective bargaining agreement. Anti-union attitude has once been expressed by General Secretary of State Enterprises Ministry Said Didu who said, “State Enterprises Ministry will soon audit collective bargaining agreement made by state enterprises and their workers. This step is taken that all collective bargaining agreement can no longer very tilt to worker.”[28].

The relationship between union and employer is”unique”. In one side, imbalance ”legal” relation has occurred because the employers have a stronger social-economic condition and situation and this frequently causes conflict among both parties. In other side, there is a mutual relation between unions and employers and has become embryo for working relationship between worker and employer.  Seeing from these relations union image is built not only by workers and their union but also depends on employers and government treatments toward union movement, in other word how they give space for workers and unions to implement and enjoy their basic and fundamental rights on the workplace.

Trade union participation and solidarity

A trade union/labor union is an organization that comes from, is established by and for either enterprise-bound or enterprise-free workers/laborers, which is free, open, independent, democratic and responsible to fight for, defend and protect the rights and interests of workers/laborers and improve the welfare of workers/laborers and their families (Article 1 Act No. 21/2000 concerning trade unions/labor unions). Trade union participation in the public services unions is still very low, yet the image of the union movement made the workers’ reluctant to be actively involved[29].

Few major public sector unions are affiliated to Global Union Federations (GUF’s), relevant to the sectors where they have their members[30]. Labour law (Act No. 21/2000) is giving an easy way that only 10 workers in the same workplace are needed to form and register a union (article 2 (2)). A federation of trade unions/labor/unions is formed by at least five trade unions/labor unions (article 6 (2)) and a confederation is formed at least by three federations of trade unions/labor unions. The state-owned enterprises employees withdrew from the single umbrella organization for the public services employees, KORPRI, and created their own union and established their federation which is Federasi Serikat Pekerja Badan Usaha Milik Negara or FSP. BUMN (State-owned Enterprises Workers Union Federation) but ideological differences and less maturity of the organizations brought up internal conflict and fraction: FSP. BUMN split (2005) into three federations: FSP.BUMN, FSP. BUMN BERSATU and FSP. BUMN STRATEGIS[31]. PGRI by their Congress decided to rebuild the organization as a teachers’ trade union promoting both the professional rights and economic welfare of teachers.

There are three national centers in Indonesia, namely: KSPSI[32], KSPI[33] and KSBSI[34]. Total membership amounted to approximately eight million (FES Indonesia. 2002[35]), and the confederations’ is only represented manufacturing or private industrial sector, only PGRI is affiliated to KSPI (part of founder organization). Some public services workers unions in SOEs do not enter themselves into national centers. And seeing from this point of view, it is clear that Indonesian union movement is still fragmented based on education (blue collar and white collar) and work types (private or public). And now there is a tendency in some federations to make themselves as ”common” trade union (just for the sake of attracting new membership that this actually can weakened union movement in the near future. Organization identity is important thing for representing and represented processes[36]).

Why does public services unions not yet join with national center? This is a question hard to answer because there is no research on workers “affection” and participation in national union movement (in broaden meaning is national centers). Based on workplace and services types, public sector union has been in fact strong “even though it does not affiliate to national centers”. For example:

  • State Electricity workers union cancelled Law No 20/2002 on electricity by filling judicial reviews at Constitution Court[37].
  • Tempointeraktif, Thursday 8 May 2008: SOEs unions unite solidarity to put pressure on government to pay more attention to SOEs workers well being[38].
  • PGRI was able to remove a mayor (Mayor Kampar, Riau Islands), who was against teachers being pro-active and demanding their rights[39]

Unions need to be cultivated, unions are economic force and alternative mean to gain social prosperous. It is undeniable that dependency and negative image attached on unions movement in the past is still overshadowed them and they can not fully remove or overcome both of them. Today trend in unions movement is to work individually and defends and promotes their only groups interests, and this in turn makes workers antipathy toward union grows and reluctant to fully involve in union movement. Collectivity is important, if not the most important, thing in labor union, and therefore good and modern recruitment strategies must be developed to gain participation. It can be said that public services workers unions are unwilling to join with national centers because of not only differences in vision but also, and one that more important, the movement image in the past and weak condition the labor movement now experience. Vision of public services workers is not only serving its members’ interests but also defending and promoting public services. Public services unions’ strength is its strong solidity, structure, and large memberships (their memberships are vivid because they are company level union). And these are what they feel, that they have “their own strength” so they prefer to alliance than affiliate to.

However, the interesting phenomenon is that many public sector workers unions join with GUF’s (Global Union Federations. See footnote 30). They said that international union federation was more promising for stable organization movement, or in other word they would have long-term and continuous struggle. International reputation they built has made their movement in sectoral and industrial stronger. In addition, some GUF’s have representatives offices (or projects) in Indonesia.[40] GUF’s  has assisted them in building and developing union organizations through education and training activities, campaign and implementation of their organizations’ strategic action planning.

Their involvement in national and international (public services sector) unions after separated from KORPRI, and freedom of association principles and protection of right to organize now they have could not they fully enjoy.  They feel that their member’s participation is still low. Dependency members on committee (leader) is still high and, therefore, leader roles become dominant. “It is so hard to make them active in union activities, said one union leader affiliated to PSI. Employees in public sector are at large established workers; prosperous (read: salary) is not what they are looking for anymore but job security. Nevertheless, life demand has unprecedented grown and, willingly or not, made union as organization that can be leaned on to improve terms and conditions of employment.  Still, they are reluctant to actively involve in voicing and struggling for better terms and conditions of employment, most of them are only free riders. Establishment also means fear in their part to actively take part in union movement because they know from experience that actively involve in union can impair and prevent career advancement and promotion. Union is also new culture for them after they know only KORPRI as union for years in which they become automatic and passive members and acquaintance with KORPRI social and cultural activities. This in turn also makes active participation something difficult to reach.  They see union activities (its roles and functions) more from “political” perspective: improvement in terms and conditions of employment and “refutation” of management planning which can give bad impact on workers and services to society. This narrow perspective public services workers hold more or less causes them discourage with changing roles and functions of the organization. And, we are conscious that there are unions in SOEs which are categorized as yellow union (unions arranged by SOEs management to protect and defend its interests).

Geographical factor is also one that causes difficulty in organizing activities held in capital (Jakarta) and consumes much money[41]. Activities they administered with their international affiliation has helped much especially in financing travel and accommodation expenses during the activities implementation (inviting local leaders and their activists). The significant advantage from activities held together with their international affiliation on unions is a lesson they can learn from (PSI has six affiliated unions in Indonesia), in addition to knowledge and skills in devising strategies to tackle the challenge they are facing. All these hopefully can develop and change not only those who are participating in unions but also the union as institution into stronger entity. Besides, cooperation inter-unions is going to be stronger due to activities they conduct together.

Rally against energy privatisation in Indonesia

Around five thousand workers joined the anti-privatisation or anti-unbundling mass rally in Jakarta, Indonesia on 30 January. They came from all over the country to protest against the decision of PLN Stakeholders on January 8, 2008 to sell its generator plant. The 5,000 workers of SP. PLN, PP.Indonesia Power and SP.PLN-PJB decided to go ahead with the rally. Public Services International and its affiliates FARKES and the Trade Union of Angkasa Pura 1 also joined the rally[42]

PGRI, as reported by EI is organization which increasingly takes active role in national labor movement, especially in KSPI in which the general secretary is Mr. Rusli Yunus from PGRI National Board[43]. The leaders are increasingly active in promoting human rights and union right and firmly voicing education quality improvement[44].


Indonesia has experienced significant changes in terms of union movement, especially by the coming of public services sector into being in the movement. Despite there are conditions as set out in the country’s laws and regulations which has limited civil servants to join with union, nevertheless, it is undisputable fact that according to ILO convention No. 87/1948 concerning right to union every civil servant may establish and join with union as a part of their human rights regardless their differences whatsoever and this right has already been recognized internationally.  Now, it is on the public services workers’ hands themselves to use this opportunity in order to protect their rights and interests and promote their living standard. By joining with union they choose it is more likely that hindrances and obstacles can be sided and overcame.

It is true that public services union movement is still feeble, scattered and not yet self-contained, and this is so because civil servants and public services workers more than likely often have not fully realized the right to union and the protection of right to organize.  And the situation public services workers have experienced reflects Indonesia labor condition and political situation at large. The zest which represents the growing of new unions does not automatically drive them into union; on the contrary differences in workers’ education background (blue and white collars) and work types (private and public) is getting vivid. Public services unions need representatives in national industrial relationship (tripartite)[45]. Tripartite mechanism is to hold regular meeting to discuss any labor and industrial relation problems. The question is who is representing public services workers? Up to now it is still “believed” that labor regulations which exist belong to private workers not public services employees. Public services sector unions is still neglecting their representative in national tripartite in, therefore, do not have majority vote in the institution.

Exclusivity was also nature of public services worker unions due to their differences in movement agenda. Democratization process and freedom has allowed the organization to determine how they want to manage themselves. High bargain position has abandoned the union’s spirit of collectivity. And this has become public services unions’ internal challenge in developing and building strong organization. KORPRI as civil servants’ umbrella organization firmly stated that it is only a corps of Indonesia civil servants.

The goal of all labor organizations is similar, to struggle for interests and rights of their members. Collectivity and united spirit is only character of the organizations.

Freedom to organize through ILO Convention No. 87/1948 is open to all employees without discrimination whatsoever. This opportunity gives a large space for civil servants and public services workers to enjoy a greater freedom of association and protection of their rights to organize. *********

[1] Indah Budiarti is working for the Public Services International. Designated as Local Coordinator for Indonesia on September 1999 to April 2007 (from January 2005 to March 2007, she was also a project coordinator for the PSI/SASK/JHL/KNS Trade Union Development Project for Indonesia). Now, she is Organising and Communication Coordinator for the Asia and Pacific Regional Office. For last eight years having experiences on organising public sector unions and its result to five unions from state own enterprises affiliated to Public Services International: three unions from electricity workers (SP.PLN, SP.PJB and PP Indonesia Power), one union from airport business and services workers (SP. Angkasa Pura 1) and one union from Jakarta Water Supply Workers (SP.PDAM Jakarta).

The views and opinions expressed in the paper are strictly those of the author. Data statistik dan informasi tentang serikat pekerja ada beberapa perubahan saat ini mengingat artikel ini dipersiapkan pada tahun 2008.

[2] Source: ILO – Jakarta office (Library)

[3] Ratified under the Presidential Decree (Keputusan Presiden) No. 83/1998, responding of the ratification noted that critics on how the ratified only by presidential decree not law as higher under the hierarchy of legislation in Indonesia:

(1)     The Constitution of 1945 (Undang-undang Dasar Negara 1945)

(2)     “Decisions” (Ketetapan) passed by the People’s Consultative Assembly;

(3)     “Act of Parliament” or “Law” (Undang-undang) passed by the legislature,

(4)     “Government Regulation” (Peraturan Pemerintah) issued by the government;

(5)     “Presidential Decree” (Keputusan Presiden) made by the President;

(6)     Implementing regulations such as Ministerial Regulations (Peraturan Menteri).

[4] BUMN: Badan Usaha Milik Negara (State Own Enterprises or SOE)

[5] During Orde Baru, KORPRI (Indonesia Civil Servants Corp) was the only organisation to which all civil servants were obliged to belong. It was compulsory for KORPRI to join GOLKAR (Partai Golongan Karya – the Party of the Functional Group). GOLKAR was the ruling party during Orde Baru (or Suharto’s regime).

[6] Statistic of BKN on Number of Civil Servants based on ministry/department and gender (

[7] 2006 data, source: .

-=Privatization schemes are still underway and most of the main target work of the SOEs ministry,  one of the target is PLN (Electricity State Company) as categorized 10th most unprofitably (huge losses) SOEs. World Bank (WB) and International Power Producer (IPP) play a crucial role to force the government to privatize the electricity industry.

In 2002, Indonesia’s government undertook measures to liberalise the electricity market in order to make it more interesting for foreign investment. The government was endorsed Law No. 20/2002 concerning electricity but on December 15, 2004, Indonesian Constitutional Court annulled the law. PLN Union (SP.PLN) an affiliated of PSI had filled a law suit against the Electricity Law No. 20/2002, worked with PSI and civil society groups to support and campaign defend electricity as public service. As the court said the privatization of electricity would harm the country! (Source PSI Press Release on 15 December 2005…………….click this for the link of the press release: Media Release:Indonesian Constitutional Court rejects electricity privatisation law (or .

No such data available to provide number of SOE’s employees.

[8] Source: Patrick Quinn, Working Paper on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining-A Study of Indonesian experience 1998-2003 (ILO, September 2003)

[9] The Congress (MUNAS) was held in Jakarta on 15-17 February 1999.

[10] KORPRI by their statue/rule of organization which is legalized by Republic of Indonesia Presidential Decree Number 16/2005 “reiterate firmly that Indonesia Civil Servants is: civil servants; State Owned Enterprises employees, State Owned Legal Entities employees, public Services Agencies, and Local Owned Enterprises and their subsidiaries” (Article 1)

[11] The progress made within the situation after the ratification of Convention No. 87.1948 and the decision of KORPRI congress that to give free option for the state-owned enterprise employees, then Minister of State Owned Enterprise released instruction letter No. S.19/MSA-5/BUMN/1999 concerning facilitation to establish union. The management of SOE’s greatly facilitated the establishment of union by ran simultaneous awareness-raising workshop/seminar on trade union organisation. Simplistically speaking, the process of establishment which referred to instruction letter to promote unionism in the SOE’s more top down process on the process of “implementation in practice” of the convention of freedom of association. All new union has been established in the SOE’s (1999). In general, the process of unionism in the SOE’s is stated as situation on controlling workers to freedom of association and negotiate but a number of unions is getting strong and more aware the role and function of union act considerately defending the workers rights and public sector ownership, fighting against privatization of essential services.

Legal bases that support the establishment of labor union in SOEs are:

  • Law No 19/2003 on State Owned Enterprises, Article 87 paragrah 2: ”SOEs employees may form union based on regulation”. Article 87 paragraph 3: ”Labor/Worker union must maintain security and orderly in company and improve work discipline”
  • Letter of Manpower and Transmigration Minister to SOEs Minister No. B.691/MEN/PHI-KHI/X/2005 dated on October 18, 2005 on Industrial Relationship in which the substantive is as follow: “All Laws and Regulations related to manpower especially that regulates Industrial Relationship as state in Law No. 21/2000 on trade/labor union, Law No. 13/2003 on Labor, Law No. 2/2004 on Resolution of Industrial Relationships Dispute, ILO Convention No. 87/ 1948 and ILO Convention No. 98/1949 apply to all SOEs.

[12] PGRI, Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesi, is having strong membership for about 1, 7 million teachers across Indonesia.

[13] In order to implement of Law No. 21/2000 concerning labour unions/trade unions, it is necessary to establish a registration procedure of trade union/labour union. The Decision of the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia No. Kep.16/Men/2001 is the regulation to stipulate of union registration.

[14] Law No. 21/2000 concerning labour/trade unions: article 5 (1) every workers/laborer has the right to form and become a member of trade union/labour union

[15] Law No. 21/2000 concerning labour/trade unions: article 18 (1) upon its establishment, a trade union/labor union, a federation or a confederation of trade unions/labor unions shall give a written notification to the local government agency responsible for manpower affairs for the sake of record keeping.

[16] Article 7 of the ILO Convention No. 15/1978 “Measures appropriate to national conditions shall be taken, where necessary, to encourage and promote the full development and utilization of machinery for negotiation of terms and conditions of employment between the public authorities concerned and public employees’ organization, or of such other methods as will allow representatives of public employees to participate in the determination of these metters”

[17] Indonesia has not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 151/1978.. Public services employees should start intensive campaign to call the government to safeguard and respect of the basic rights of the public employees by ratify this convention. (Conventions are international treaties drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) and setting out basic principles and rights at work which are binding on the countries which ratify them voluntarily).

[18] These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The Declaration makes it clear that these rights are universal, and that they apply to all people in all States – regardless of the level of economic development (

[19] Angkasa Pura 1 Union was questioned about their membership by their employer when they asked for collective bargaining, 2005. Some of the Angkasa Pura 1 employees are seconded from Ministry of Transportation (civil servant) and Indonesian National Army (Air Force).  Under article 119 (1) Law No. 13/2003 concerning manpower “……if there is only one trade unions/labor unions in an enterprises, the only trade/labour union in the enterprise shall have the right to represent workers/laborers in negotiating a collective agreement with the entrepreneur provided that more than 50% (fifthly percent) of the total number of workers/laborers who work in enterprise are member of the trade union/labour union. This question is risen up due to status of supplementary civil servants.

Management busted the union using the article 44 of the Law No. 21/2000.

PGRI is having difficulties to registered the union with the local office of ministry of manpower and transmigration following the interpretation of article 44 of Law No. 21/2000, they could not register PGRI as trade union for its members who are also civil servants. PGRI only entitled to register their members who are private or non-public teachers only. PGRI’s is now fighting to their full right as trade union organisation.

[20] The labour union response to electricity privatisation: the trade unions in the electricity sector (SP.PLN, SP. PJB and PP Indonesia) objected to the government’s plan to privatise country’s electrical system and direct the sale to private investors of power plants, transmission lines and other key components of Indonesia’s electricity grid (unbundling of the state electricity company, PLN). They won the legal struggle against the electricity law (see under the footnote 7) but the annulment of the law does not mean that the privatisation of power service agenda has finished. The government is trying to enact a new law (extracted from ICFTU, April 2006, “Fighting for Alternatives: cases of successful trade union resistance to the policies of the IMF and World Bank. Indah Budiarti, PSI Coordinator Indonesia, has interviewed personally by an email for said book. Check this address for the complete report:

[21] In its second report of, in 1952, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association considered the right of workers and their organizations to strike as an essential and legitimate means of promoting and defending their economic and social interests (Digest, paras. 474 and 475). The recognition of this right is based on article 3 of Convention No. 87/1948, which grants workers’ organisation the right to organize their activities and to formulate their programmes (Source: The Committee on Freedom of Association: Its impact over 50 years. ILO Geneva 2001)

[22] The three main focused laws is produced to comply with the ILO Conventions: The trade unions/labour unions Act No. 21/2000, The Manpower Act No. 13/2003 and The Industrial Dispute Settlement Act No. 2/2004

[23] (article 137)  “strike is a fundamental workers/labourers and trade/labour unions that shall be staged legally, orderly and peacefully as a result of failed negotiation

[24] article 139 “the implementation of strike staged by the workers/labourers of enterprises that serve the public interest and/or enterprises whose types of activities, will lead to the endangerment of human lives, shall be arranged in such a way so as not to disrupt public interest and/or endanger the safety of other people.

[25] According to explanatory notes of the law

[26] Nobody is allowed to prevent workers/labourers and trade/labour unions from using their right to strike legally, orderly and peacefully (Article 143 (1))

[27] Most the violations through discrimination against union or anti-union in practices:

[28] Source: Antara News (

many violations has been done by management toward workers and unions in SOEs but little has been reported to, and frequently the violation carried out through manners and means which are not procedural  according to Law No. 2/2004.

Indonesia dispute settlement law No. 2/2004. The law introduces five dispute settlement procedures, namely bipartite settlement, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and an Industrial Relations Court. Workers (and trade union) still not satisfied, this law creates individual workers to settle their own dispute but not to be represented by the union. Law application and enforcement are another factor that no appreciation to demonstrate sincere willingness the parties involved in the dispute to the prevailing regulations and decisions made by authorized institution. Corruption (bribe the judges) and parties interfere also factors to be considered.

Angkasa Pura I Airport Worker Union through Public Services International has submitted violation conducted by Angkasa Pura I management to International Labor Conference. The Conference Committee heard how seven workers had been suspended without pay and one had been dismissed after taking part in strike action on 7–8 May 2008. The Conference Committee was told that this was further evidence of the Indonesian government’s failure to protect the rights of trade unionists, in accordance with its obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation. It was also claimed that this ran against the right to freedom of speech for all Indonesian citizens (Source:

[29] Blue and white collars workers’ dichotomy made difficult to promote unionism among the public services employees. For the last 30 years unionism only recognized in the industrial/manufacture whose the workers categorized as blue collars (stereotyped image: low education – high school or less then).  The union movement constructed a negative public image as organization which fight against employers and the government, this situation generate tension and caused of damage by brutally action (security forces, police and military, interfered in industrial dispute). Therefore, public services workers who claimed themselves as white collar being skeptical opposed to union movement and tend to see their advancement in work as tied to their reaching goals (career and promotion) rather than in union movement. Union density is high in the public sector union but membership participation is remaining low.

There is no such updated data to provide number of union in the public sector.

The government released Minister Regulation No. KEP 16/MEN/2001 concerning the registration procedure of a trade union/labour union. The registration of the union under this regulation (article 3) stated that the district/city government agency has an obligation to notifying trade union/labour union into the official record and give it a number as a proof of its entrance.

List of trade union by ILO: Check KORPRI registered as union under non confederation unions, No. 13)


[31] The privatisation of essential services is under way, and the unions are now having long struggle campaign against the privatisation. As interviewed with Mr. Daryoko, President of the PLN Union and the General Secretary of FSP.BUMN Strategies“ our government is selling this country through the privatisation scheme, we are opposing to prevent the government from changing the law to make way of privatisation, so that why we won in the constitutional court to annul Act No. 20/2002 concerning electricity. We believed that public sector union roles are not only work for the members but to defend the rights of public as well. This established this federation because we fights the same ideology”

[32] Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (KSPSI, All Indonesia Workers Unions Confederation), formerly FSPSI

[33] KSPI (Kongres Serikat Pekerja Indonesia)

[34] Konfederasi Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia (KSBSI)

[36] For example: FSP. FARKES/R in their statue also states employees’ memberships from public services sector. FSP KAHUTINDO which once was only for wood and forestry now turn into Federasi Serikat Pekerja Perkayuan Perhutanan dan Umum Seluruh Indonesia. SPN which once was textile, cloth and leather workers union now turn into Serikat Pekerja Nasional

[37] Source: Decision Indonesian Constitutional Court on Case Number 001-021-022/PUU-I/2003: 001-021-022_PUU-I_2003 (UU Ketenagalistrikan) – English.doc.pdf

[40] EI-PGRI Consortium Project (1999 – now):

PSI established Indonesia office since September 1999 and later funded PSI/SASK/JHL/KNS Project for Indonesia affiliated unions (2005-now).

ITF Coordinator for Indonesia is located at KPI office (Indonesian Maritime Union) and the President of the union is the coordinator.  In 2007, ITF and SASK is developed project for Indonesian Railway union (Serikat Pekerja Kereta API).

UNI work closely with ASPEK Indonesia. ASPEK Indonesia is organized workers in the post and telecommunication (Serikat Pekerja Pos Indonesia)

IUF is appointed their representative for Indonesia in 1998; Ms. Hemasari Dharmabumi is the Indonesia Representative.

[41] Recently many unions in SOEs financed themselves for activities they conducted because most if the activities were contrary to management (government) policy. Based on their collective bargaining agreement it is said that management has an obligation to facilitate union.

[43] PGRI has just held their National Congress (in Palembang, South Sumatera on 30 June to 4 July 2008) and experienced national leadership alteration. Mr Rusli Yunus no longer sits on PGRI National Board, which means that there is probably changing in KSPI.

[45] FSP BUMN represented by its president, Mr Abdul Azis Hassan, is one of Indonesia delegates in this year ILO Conference (2008) in Geneva. But FSP. spilt into three federations.



4 thoughts on “Freedom of Association for the Public Sector employees in Indonesia: Challenges and development

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Freedom of Association for the Public Sector employees in Indonesia: Challenges and development « UNIONISM --

  2. Indah, this is fantastic! keep it up
    I was doing a literature search for Jurgen during my internship with PSI and i found ur article very helpful.


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