BWI condemns police violence against protesting Indonesian workers

Across Indonesia, trade unionists and students who took to the streets to protest the passage of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation were met with arrests, violence and harassment from state security forces. The attacks on Indonesian workers took place as the international labour movement marked the World Day for Decent Work on 7 October. 

Indonesia’s social media is littered with videos showing the police force’s violent handling of the trade unions’ peaceful protest actions. BWI-affiliated SERBUK reported that brutal police violence against protesting workers have taken place in Lampung, Semarang, Bekais, Bandung, North Kalimantan, Banten, West Jakarta, West Java, West Sumatra, and North Sulawesi. 

Serbuk said that 261 demonstrators, mostly young adults, have been arrested in Semaring, Central Java. Meanwhile, two students from Diponegoro University have suffered head injuries at the hands of the police and six Pelita Bangsa University students have been hospitalised and are in critical condition after their protest action was violently dispersed by the police force. The union said that it continues to receive reports from other places.


BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson condemned the unprovoked and unwarranted use of violence against the trade unions’ peaceful demonstrations.  “As if the passage of the Omnibus Law is not enough, the government unleashed a wave of brutal violence against workers who were forced to go to the streets to assert and protect their right to job and income security,” he said. 

“Amidst a pandemic, resorting to state-sanctioned violence against workers who are simply exercising their democratic rights is deplorable, to say the least. The inhumane treatment suffered by our fellow workers from the hands of government security forces cannot stand. This cannot be put to rest until the Indonesian government is held accountable,” Yuson added.

SERBUK General Secretary Khamid Istakhori said that prior to the violence on 7 October, massive demonstrations held across Indonesia were largely tolerated and respected. “The government desperately resorted to violence to quell the growing national opposition to the anti-worker Omnibus Law.  We call on the global labour movement to raise its voice and join us in condemning this horrible attack against workers’ rights and welfare,” Istakhori said. 

Global unions and Indonesia’s major trade union confederations have joined hands in opposing the Omnibus Law on Job Creation. They argued that the measure will significantly undermine the labour rights and welfare of Indonesian workers and contravenes the existing Employment Act No. 13/2003. 

As part of their next moves, they will call on President Joko Widodo to use his presidential powers to revoke the Omnibus Law, as provided by PERPPU or the Government Regulation in Lieu of Acts.