Indonesia: Unions and the Media


Indonesia has a strong culture of information sharing and now Indonesian has gained a relatively freedom to express their thoughts openly. Growing number of protests as the way for people to express thoughts has increased particularly after Suharto’s regime fell down in 1998. Meantime, political TV talk shows have become regular program that attracts millions of viewers especially as government allows private TV stations to air in 1989 “accompanying” the state-run TV station (TVRI). Besides, street demonstrations, marches and rallies are seen to be a common way against the authorities and opponents to protest various aspects of people life in Indonesia. Do not miss the show, Indonesian labors and their unions are also in active state exercising their rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association. 

There are no definite and clear data to reveal numbers of strikes and demonstrations the labours and their unions have staged. In spite of this, anyone may see a significant elevation of protest/demonstration/strike cases at national, local, and work-site levels. There are several factors encouraging workers to do protest/strike in Indonesia: demands for hike in salary and minimum wage, for holiday benefits and bonus, abolition of work-contract and outsource, social security, payroll punctuality, for stopping union busting, dismissal, and other working requirements and conditions ignored by employers.

Even though some might say protest and strike aggrieve other parties for hindering economic and trading or causing disorder in society, they are effective weapons workers and union use to fight for their demands. Media itself is not whole-hearted in supporting workers actions. This is most probably because of ownership of the media shares by conservative-liberalist groups. In addition, the media may see labor-related news could not construct an appealing headline.

Actually, the rise in demonstration/protest/strike labours has held is because of distortion in communication between the labours and employer. The distortion is very probably resulted from a paradigm marginalizing the working class (Uwiyono, 2001).

So, the workers have mass power through their union to fight for such basic and fundamental rights at workplace. However, they have yet much used advance communication tools especially computer communication and of powerful internet to develop and campaign their union works. The numbers of internet users here in Indonesia has increased rapidly over the past few years, up to 30 million Indonesian using internets. But, only tiny numbers of Indonesia unions does have website; unfortunately, those having website have not well maintained and updated periodically its contents. They use email for individual communication use only and rarely Indonesia union’s office does have computer with internet access. Internet cafes can be seen at every corner in Indonesia big cities but rarely labours are able to capitalize this communication tool. Keeping in mind Indonesia geography, coordination and work of union can be made easier, cheaper and faster with internet compared by, for example, holding a face-to-face meeting in one town which surely costly. With computer and internet, there is a possibility for union movement to create “virtual labour movement network”, intended especially to labor with budget limitation. Of course, adopting this new information technology into union work will not be easy. Political will from union leaders is prerequisite besides the need in them to technology-literate and –responsive

Eric Lee, the author of “the labour movement and the internet: the new internationalism” (1997), maintains that the internet is now providing a wholly new environment in which the labour movement can finally achieve international solidarity. Union members, wherever they are located, can now facilitate workers’ activities, organise discussion and formulate international policies in a way not possible before. He also founder of Labourstart, online news services that covers union news from around the world. Labourstart is also an “interactive” website which make possible for unionists or labour activists to be volunteer correspondents. Moreover, LabourStart has set up its own ActNOW online campaign system and is being used by unions around the world to conduct online campaigns on their behalf. Indonesian unions are seemed not make use of this facility; their participation in this activity is only through facilitation of international organization or through their global union federations (GUF’s).

So, how about social media networking such as facebook and twitter? The use of both social networking is common because of their popularity and some issues on Indonesia has become Twitter’s Trending Topics List. Many facebook pages are dedicated to certain causes and has attracted many people to join, unions are no exception. However, some causes are likely to be popped up for the sake of popular trend with no follow up.

Media often issues negative side of labor movement and its union. For example, demonstration/protest workers stage is headed under language aggrieving them such as “labours staged, hundred million lost”, “some parts Jakarta street are bogged down because of labour strike”. Therefore, progressive media is in need to do counterbalance and defend interest of labour movement and its union. A media that can be deadly weapon to win worker and union struggles.

One thought on “Indonesia: Unions and the Media

  1. Pingback: Union and New Media – Popular Social Networking Sites « UNIONISM

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