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Opportunity, challenges for Indonesia’s vibrant labour movement – by Peter Moss

Pete Moss is a LabourStart correspondent based in Australia. He’s just returned from a visit to Indonesia.

indonesiaA week in Jakarta meeting union leaders and activists during August taught me two things.

Firstly, this is a period of great opportunity for the Indonesian labour movement to build strongly on gains made in recent years.

Secondly, any international support will be warmly welcomed, including from LabourStart, which is well known and respected among Indonesian unionists.

Unions have won massive gains over the past few years, including a national social security system that will deliver pensions and healthcare for all. The three major union confederations also came together in 2012 for a mighty campaign that delivered a 44 percent increase in the minimum wage. This year Indonesia successfully concluded elections that position the archipelago as the leading democracy in South East Asia. Continued economic growth in this resource-rich diverse nation of 250 million will position Indonesia as a global powerhouse.

The underlying conditions are very positive but inequality is also increasing. Unions face many battles to ensure that workers and their communities are fairly rewarded.
One challenge springs from the scattered structure of the labour movement, which at last count included six registered confederations, 91 federations and 437 enterprise unions. This vibrant movement has emerged only since 1998, when protests brought down the New Order regime and ILO conventions were ratified.
This year the movement divided over the July presidential election. Unions actively intervene in politics, but there is no united strategy and no social democratic or labour party.

Labour Start has a positive profile and universal recognition among the union leaders and labour activists I met.  Particularly appreciated are Labour Start’s Indonesia campaigns, including two for the IndustriALL-affiliated pulp and paper union so far in 2014.

One construction union general secretary pointed to a poster on his office wall and said: ‘When our leader was jailed, Labour Start supported him.’

Several local unionists are active Labour Start supporters, including Indah Budiarto, Nelson Saragih and Khamid Istakhori.  Indonesian unionists are keen to further enhance links with the international movement. Union training was cited as one area where assistance could make a real difference.

Peter Moss

Workshop Invitations Picking Up in Canada

In addition to doing a series of sessions for Unifor, the largest public sector union in Canada, we’ve also recently done a session on LabourStart itself at union conferences in Alberta and New Brunswick and just received an invitation to do a session on international work for the Halifax Labour Council in late October.

I don’t know quite why this surge in interest but I suspect it has something to do with some generational turnover in mid- and senior-level trade union leadership. The people now moving into those positions have kinda grown up with LabourStart.

In any case, so far we’ve been able to say yes to all the requests.


Derek Blackadder

Another way LabourStart can be useful – a request from lawyers in the USA

supreme_court_buildingWe’ve recently received this request from a lawyer (who we knew years ago as a labour movement activist):

“You may or may not have heard that about a year ago, the US Supreme Court gutted an important US law, the Alien Tort Statute, that we had been using for international human rights cases against US companies. Our area of law is now in flux, and US corporations have an incredible amount of impunity for harm they do overseas. We are looking for new cases to test out new legal theories. Since you receive reports from around the world of the sorts of violations that could form the basis of a test case, I thought you might be able to keep an eye out for potential cases for us. The ideal test case would involve a US company and a relatively egregious harm (so for example a factory fire in which people died or were seriously injured, where the factory supplied to a US company). The stronger the connection to the US company the better, as ultimately we need to sue a US-based defendant. … [we] would have the opportunity to be a part of re-establishing mechanisms for international corporate accountability in the US.”

I’ve asked around and everyone I spoke to thought we should help.  So I’m appealing today to all LabourStart correspondents to keep an eye open for this sort of thing and let me know when they find something.  We’ll review this again in two months to see if we’ve come up with anything worthwhile.

Solidarity with 502 Turkish trade unionists on trial

keskistanbulI’m in Istanbul for the next few days as part of an international trade union delegation. We’ll be attending the opening of the second stage of a trial of leaders of KESK, the public sector union, over 500 of whose members have been charged with a wide range of crimes including terrorism. In the photo – Lars Bengtsson, international secretary of the Swedish national trade union centre TCO; Abdullah Muhsin, from the British teachers’ union NASUWT; Eric Lee; and four KESK activists. More details tomorrow.

Twitter Caucus?

If you manage one of the LabourStart Twitter feeds could you update me (Derek Blackadder) on what you’re doing? I’m about to do another quick survey of the people following the feeds I run to see what they think about tweet frequency, hours, etc and it would be useful to know what you’re doing I think.

FYI, here’s what I currently have set up:

Management software: Hootsuite

Global English feed: one tweet every 3 hours, 24/7. Plus campaign tweets, the auto feed of Top Stories as they are posted and the odd tweet from Eric et al at the office.

English Canadian feed: one per hour, 12 per day, 7 days per week from 0700 to 1900 Eastern.

French Canadian feed: one every two hours, 6 per day, 7 days per week from 0700 to 1900 Eastern.

I also have some boilerplate tweets (re. the Flickr group, newswires, donations, that sort of thing) which I throw into the mix as the mood takes me.



LabourStart in Numbers – November 2013

Our mailing lists grew slightly smaller as despite running new campaigns, we were running them to the same audiences, not picking up new ones. (We’re down over 600 subscribers this month.) It’s vitally important that unions which partner with us when doing a campaign understand this — otherwise our list will continue to fall little by little every month.

And though our numbers on social networks are steadily rising, there was a falling off of traffic to our websites.

The previous month’s numbers are in brackets below.

Mailing lists

Total for all lists: 117,869 [118,504]

English: 83,669 [84,236]
French: 6,813 [6,828]
Spanish: 5,138 [5,140]
Italian: 4,002 [4,026]
German: 3,870 [3,886]
Turkish: 3,272 [3,274]
Norwegian: 2,911 [2,927]
Russian: 2,091 [2,089]
Dutch: 1,414 [1,426]
Chinese: 1,073 [1,078]
Finnish: 584 [570]
Japanese: 334 [334]
Arabic: 321 [322]
Polish: 281 [282]
Portuguese: 263 [256]
Tagalog: 254 [254]
Hebrew: 246 [247]
Farsi: 241 [245]
Indonesian: 199 [182]
Swedish: 192 [195]
Korean 178 [177]
Danish: 134 [137]
Czech: 86 [88]
Esperanto: 75 [74]
Thai: 68 [68]
Greek: 59 [60]
Hindi: 40 [40]
Slovak: 19 [19]
Bulgarian: 18 [19]
Creole: 12 [13]
Vietnamese:12 [12]

Social networks

Twitter followers

English: 10,774 [10,478]
Canada English: 2,521 [2,430]
Canada French: 318 [304]
French: 194 [189]
USA: 78 [57]
Spanish: 63 [62]
Japanese: 23 [23]
Russian: 16 [16]
German: 15 [15]
Portuguese: 7 [7]

Like page (English): 8,167 [7,998]
Members of LabourStart group: 6,281 [6,106]
Like LabourStart page (French): 350 [343]
Like LabourStart page (Turkish): 129 [129]
Like LabourStart page (Hebrew): 103 [99]

Members: 5,657 [5,635]

LabourStart group: 1,465 [1,429]

Union group on Flickr: 740 [738]


Correspondents: 678 [673]

Website traffic (1&1 statistics)

Total visits: 629,107 [669,594]
Peak day: 26,535 [27,154]
Page impressions: 1,556,129 [1,707,274] (Clicky)

Total visitors: 51,338 [63,424]
Peak day: 5,127 [4,966]
Where they come from:
USA – 9,902 [11,091]
Indonesia – 8,133 [12,967]
Canada –  7,865 [10,208]
UK – 6,885 [8,086]
Australia – 2,785 [3,179]
Norway – 1,748 [1,897]
Germany – 944 [932]
Sweden – 913 [966]
France – 788 [807]
Netherlands – 679 [—] (Clicky)

Total visitors: 28,299 [41,088]
Peak day: 5,181 [6,044]
Where they come from:
UK – 5,841 [5,809]
USA – 4,997 [5,821]
Canada – 4,076 [6,692]
Australia – 1,798 [1,882]
Spain – 1,101 [1,787]
France – 966 [1,216]
Belgium – 925 [1,649]
Norway – 778 [1,017]
Germany – 742 [1,669]
Netherlands 626 —

LabourStart’s first-ever concert

IMG_8289On Sunday evening in Kiev, participants in the conference on the new trade unions and the democratic left were invited to participate in the first-ever LabourStart rock concert.

The band is a popular Russian socialist rock band known as Arkady Kos — which as named, as I’m sure you’re all aware, after the man who did the Russian translation of “The Internationale”.

It’s not every day that LabourStart gets asked to sponsor a concert and we were delighted to do so.

So who’s next?


And here’s the video: