Henk van Beers works for CNV Vakmensen. On a regular basis he shares his experiences in Indonesia. He is there to support his Indonesian colleagues with his experience and expertise from the Netherlands.

Officially, every employee in Indonesia has the right to join a trade union and be represented by that union. However, practical implementation of these agreements is challenging in Indonesia. There are many rules, but actual dialogue or negotiations are difficult. While each company has its own agreements, wages are set regionally by governors in this large island nation. This creates a lot of unrest."

A few years ago, local trade union KSBSI started a project for collective labour agreements per sector or region, with the support of CNV Internationaal. An intensive process that is starting to pay off. 


(made during a previous stage of the project)

Who will foot the bill?

"Today I am visiting a large garment factory. Employer and employees want to conclude a collective labour agreement, and actually comply with it.

But given the enormous pressure on the production price of textiles, this is almost impossible. Clothing prices are still declining, while remuneration for the production has been stable for a decade.

Consumers call out for fairer trade, but do their shopping at Primark. Who will foot the bill?"

Indonesie textielarbeiders 10 urige werkdag

The - mainly female - employees are on their way home. Their 10-hour working day has come to an end. Their salary?  € 180 per month.

Indonesie in Suban 2400 werknemers mc cao

Working woman-friendly and preventing unfair competition

"Here, 2400 employees are busy producing our clothes. We are in Subang, where the CNV initiative for a multi-company collective labour agreement (MCCLA) has been given effect. The main rights: woman-friendly operations, training, and prevention of unfair competition."

Indonesië Nette en veilige kledingfabriek

Too expensive for C&A and H&M

"It is an enormous facility,  but it is clean and safe - not like some factories we've seen in Bangladesh!

But the sad outcome is that this factory is too expensive for companies like C&A and H&M." 

Aicha werknemer rubberplantage Barut Indonesie

 Sometimes I go quiet 

"I go quiet, and shivers run down my spine while Aicha shares her story." She tells of a remarkable reason for the trade union and the employer to unite.

Aicha works at a rubber plantation in Garut. Hired thugs have been trying to intimidate the plantation owner since 2004. He is being pressured to sell his company at a low price. The party that wants to buy the plantation will switch to palm oil production. Growing environmental awareness in the developed world has fuelled the demand for this product on the world market.

A sad story; employer and employees have literally been fighting since 2009 - to retain their plantation and their jobs.

The plantation employees in the region are empowered by their unity, as they fight for a collective labour agreement that will provide security.

"A whole new perspective on the conclusion of a CLA." All employees of the 29 plantations concerned want to see a collective labour agreement that stipulates the use of identical work clothing, as a show of their mutual solidarity.

Diep respect voor vakbondscollega's in Indonesië

Respect for trade union colleagues in Indonesia

"Every time I talk to our Indonesian colleagues, I am filled with a deep sense of respect. They lack almost all means to deal with the situation and make improvements. CNV provides training and advice, and facilitates. Like at this factory in Bogor, with 2500 members.

I occasionally get to inspire enthusiasm in people and try to sway employes, and train trade union members."

Indonesie KSBSI Ayi

From piecework pay to fixed working hours

"Mr Ayi is a trade union leader who is proud of the outcome of his MCCLA. But things don't always go as hoped. The factory switched from piecework pay to fixed working hours.

Ayi is very disappointed to see that some employees have left to work for piecework pay at other factories. Why? After all, the MCCLA scheme is sound in the long term. The sad conclusion is that some people only plan for the short term. This is a disappointment, because we had set different goals."

Indonesie multicompany cao

Social dialogue in a rapidly developing economy

"I provide training and make company visits, to communicate with management and trade unions. But I also make time to involve the government.

We meet with the Director-General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of West Java. Dr. Ing. Ferry supports our project, and that opens important doors in West Java, a region of more than 24 million people.   People at his ministry realise that social dialogue is an important innovation in the rapidly developing Indonesian economy."

Indonesische kledingfabriek met werktijden van 10-11 uur per dag

Better agreements for multiple companies

"The key improvement of this project lies in the drawing up of agreements for multiple companies. These revolve around matters like safety, working hours and compliance with agreements on the regionally set minimum wage.

"I am visiting a garment factory that supplies to western brands. Working days of 10-11 hours, for six days a week - in return for € 180 per month - are the norm. Difficult circumstances!"

Indonesië - Bedrijf dat jeans verft

Our cheap jeans 

 "Today I visited a chemical company in Indonesia that dyes fabrics for our jeans.  It is a shock to see the working conditions: no air extraction, no protective clothing... All this for our cheap jeans. We have to realise that people elsewhere pay a high price for our affordable clothing. 
But I am happy that this company participates in our project. It gives us the opportunity to negotiate about health and safety in the workplace."

Julyian deelnemer aan de cursus in Indonesië

You get to meet fantastic people 

 "Julyan is one of the participants of the project. After the training, he hopes to conclude a multi-company collective labour agreement with multiple trade unions and multiple companies in Bogor.

With a mixture of pride and shyness, he talks about his goal. He is a trade union representative who wants to negotiate wages himself with the employer. He aims to achieve a better result than the set minimum wage. It is his goal to agree on a wage that is € 10 higher than the minimum within five years. "

De eerste drie cao's worden overhandigd aan de Indonesche minister van Sociale Zaken

The first regional sectoral collective labour agreement - Freedom of consultation

During the first years of this project we mainly focused on our partners: getting trade unions, employers’ organisations and the government at the same table. A tripartite forum for dialogue between these parties was established.

Next, in the period 2014-2015, we focused on a form of regional agreements for the sector; we could call this a regional sectoral collective labour agreement. This included primary agreements, with freedom of consultation.

The highlight was when we were able to present the first three collective agreements. The photo shows the occasion of their presentation to the Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs and the Dutch ambassador.  

This event got a lot of positive publicity. The minister has pledged to support the CNV initiative. Regulations have been amended, and a regional sectoral collective labour agreement is now legally allowed.

This is a great success, which will be the foundation for further meetings between social partners. In other words: proper social dialogue, one of CNV Internationaal's key objectives."

No competition on wages 

We are meeting with the three parties involved to discuss extending the content of the current MCCLA, and inclusion of other companies.

Each company has its own set of rules and schemes. In this project we are seeking to bring together more companies, and achieve comparable schemes for all participating companies.

The benefit is that companies, trade unions and members are strengthened, with the goal of not competing on wages and other employment conditions.

We're taking small steps - Indonesia does not have the long tradition of collective labour agreements that the Netherlands have."

Pictured are Mr Wahyudin, representing the employers, Mr Marsana for the government, and Mr Ayi on behalf of the trade union. We were discussing our plans for 2016.

A new stage of the project

The training is very practical, with both employers and employees participating. Role play is a part of every training.

In this new stage of the project we are trying to involve more sectors, select new companies, engage trade union members and enthuse employers.

Indonesia a huge country with great differences

Trade union work in a vast country

"Indonesia is a vast country, - sometimes with very bad roads.- That alone can make trade union work very laborious. But our KSBSI colleagues are doing everything they can."

Fashion comes at a price

Narida (pictured on the right) works for a chemical company that supplies to garment factories. She can only dream of a life in which a working week of 5 x 8 hours is enough. A life in which she does not have to work that much overtime to receive a living wage.

Mandatory overtime, actually, because otherwise all the just in time orders from America and Europe will be delivered too late. "Fashion comes at a price! A low price for us."

Conferentie in Bogor West Java KSBSI

Toward more multi-company collective labour agreements

"The conference at Bogor and the subsequent training of the parties involved was a success. Trade unions, employers and government agreed to prepare a fourth regional MCCLA for the textile and garment companies in Bogor (West Java).

The objective is to conclude a collective agreement for 6-10 companies with more than 9000 employees together. As a CNV member, I am proud to have contributed to this."

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