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How IndustriALL project work helps unions in Indonesia

A workshop in Jakarta, with both unions and employers present, discussed how to improve Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) through collective bargaining at the workplace. The aim – and result – of the workshop was for both sides to sign a commitment.

How IndustriALL project work helps unions in Indonesia

Model collective agreement language on OHS, prepared through the project, was used as the basis for the commitment and for future agreements at the various workplaces.

Discussions centred on the fact that health is often overlooked at the workplace, with safety getting more attention. A medical doctor spoke about inserting language on occupational hazards at work into future agreements. Unions report on work accidents at times, but almost never on longer-term occupational diseases. Since 1945, only 22 cases have been lodged with the Indonesian government on occupational diseases that were not the direct result of accidents.

Other reoccurring topics were on workers being forced to buy their own protective clothing, on the lack of knowledge by workers of the dangers of chemicals and other products, and on lack of training. Issues specific to women were also brought up, such as not having enough toilets for women (or even not having any toilets for women) and sexual harassment.

Issues that will be brought to the bargaining table include the right to know about OHS dangers and regulations, the right to medical check-ups, the right to refuse dangerous work, the provision of an ambulance, asking employers for OHS reports, work with OHS committees through the involvement of top management, and health check-ups after retirement.

A second project workshop was gender and OHS training for women trade unionists in Batam, close to Singapore, with participants, mainly young female workers, from almost all IndustriALL Indonesian affiliates.

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The meeting did a session on body mapping: identifying OHS problems on a life-size painting of a body. Colour codes indicated problems ranging from chemical hazards, itching annoyances and pains to sexual harassment. Similar mapping was also done on a drawing of a factory floor.

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The group of 25 women came up with a surprisingly long list of problems: metal allergies, too many hours standing up, unwanted touching by supervisors, respiratory problems, itchy eyes, difficulties in discussing menstruation, blood pressure problems due to bad ergonomics, falling because of loose material lying around, slippery floors, chemical substances on the ground, noise, female and male toilets combined, no sanitary bins, fire hazards due to smoking close to chemicals and because of burning coal, lack of air conditioning, dust that gets into drinking water, and no place for breast feeding.

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On the positive side, many participants also provided good examples on OHS issues being solved and problems overcome through union negotiations. Many women spoke on maternity issues, including on winning rooms for breast feeding, improving bad toilets or providing better work stations for pregnant workers. Hearing about the different lengths of maternity leave was interesting. Many told about how it had been possible to win 14 weeks maternity leave, a long-standing campaign target of the IndustriALL project in Indonesia, through collective agreements and social dialogue.

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The regional IndustriALL union building multinational corporation project, operating in four South-East Asian countries, is supported by both Mondiaal FNV and Swedish Union To Union, as well as by IndustriALL Swedish affiliates IFMetall, Unionen and Pappers.

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