LISTEN: Labor Leaders Discuss Indonesian Protocol on Freedom of Association

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Elly Rosita Silaban, Ketua Umum, leads union rally. Photo by ILO
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Emelia Yanti Md. Siahaan, General Secretary, Federation of Independent Trade Union

“Truly, our boss is multinational companies” – Elly Rosita

“We want all unions from production countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to adopt the protocol” – Emelia Yanti  

Women workers should fight for themselves. We can’t depend on outsiders. This is my message for youth and other women.” – Emelia Yanti

In 2011, several unions in Indonesia and sportswear brands including Adidas, Nike and Puma signed a protocol to ensure the protection of freedom of association rights of workers.  Labor leaders Emelia Yanti and Elly Rosita were integral to the negotiation of this protocol, which details implementation of the freedom of association such as recognizing trade unions, non-discrimination and non-interventions, freedom to join trade union activities, and freedom to receive trade union guests.  Listen to them share with Law@theMargins as to what this protocol means in light of Human Rights Day.

Although there are national laws in Indonesia protecting freedom of association, those laws are not enforced.  International human rights law also provides such protection but it is not binding on multinationals and the rights are abstract to have meaning on the day to day of workers.  Some brands who source from production countries like Indonesia have added the freedom of association language to their code of conduct but those are not respected by supplier/owners. The protocol implements these rights to form trade unions at the factory level, and makes those rights concrete, such as requiring release time for workers to organize and to have a physical space in the factory for worker representatives.  The protocol applies to all suppliers in the global supply chain, including subcontractors.

Listen to Elly Rosita Silaban and Emelia Yanti Md. Siahaan on how they organized to form an innovative protocol with sportswear brands to ensure trade union rights.

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