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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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Indonesia’s New Unions 533


MICHELE FORD Indonesia’s New Unions 1. Introduction Trade unionism has undergone a period of rapid transformation in Indonesia since the fall of President Suharto’s New Order regime in mid-1998. Indonesia’s New Order (1967–98) created a punitive system of industrial relations under which a previously vibrant union movement was harshly curtailed. When the New Order came into power, leftist unions were banned and moderate and conservative unions were brought together under the umbrella of the All-Indonesia Labour Federation (Hadiz 1997). By 1985, the Federation had been restructured as a single trade union, the All-Indonesia Workers Union – an organisation that was heavily manipulated by the government and which served to control workers rather than represent them (Ford 1999, 2000). The union was again officially restructured as a feder- ation in 1993, and unaffiliated enterprise unions were permitted to register from 1994, but little real change was achieved. In practice, the New Order government effectively maintained its one-union policy by preventing independent trade union activity above plant level. As a result of the All-Indonesia Workers Union’s lack of inde- pendence, most labour organising took place outside the officially- sanctioned structures of labour representation in New Order Indonesia. By the early 1990s, there was a complex constellation of NGOs, student-sponsored workers’ groups and self-styled ‘alternative unions’ involved in labour organising and advocacy. Yet despite the sustained increase in informal labour organisation throughout the 1990s, workers were ill-placed to take advantage of the dramatic changes in Indonesia’s political and social landscape after Suharto’s resignation...

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